The first degree apprentices have graduated from the University of Exeter.
Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee and University of Exeter alumnus, attended and spoke at the ceremony.
The 149 degree apprenticeship graduates work in leading organisations around the country. Most have been awarded an MBA, with others qualifying with a Chartered Manager B.Sc, Digital and Technology Solution B.Sc or Financial Services Professional B.Sc.
Degree apprenticeships began at the University of Exeter in 2016, and there are now currently 1,400 apprentices who are studying or graduated.
Courses are developed with employers, and apprentices attend the University of Exeter for lectures and seminars.
The University of Exeter runs degree apprenticeships with 200 leading organisations including Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, NHS trusts, BT, the Cabinet Office, local authorities, JP Morgan, IBM, the Met Office and Sony.
Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “We are very proud of our very first degree apprenticeship graduates. The skills and expertise they have gained will support them to make invaluable contributions to their companies and the economy. The University is thrilled to be working with so many innovative and dynamic businesses.”
Adele Dawson, Head of Degree Apprenticeships at the University of Exeter, said: “As well as celebrating our first graduates on our degree apprenticeship programmes, we are celebrating five years of delivery of these prestigious programmes. All the staff at the university are very proud to see our hard work coming to fruition, this is a significant milestone for us all.
“Our biggest employer is the NHS, and we are proud to have supported employees of the NHS throughout the pandemic, enabling them to study and achieve their leadership and management qualifications in the most challenging of circumstances.”
Mr Halfon said: “My years at the University of Exeter were some of the happiest of my life. I was proud to study both my undergraduate and my masters degrees at Exeter. When I was a student, I never imagined that I would be coming back to the university as an MP and the Chair of the Education Committee to see degrees awarded to the first cohort of degree apprenticeship graduates.
“My hope is that one day, 50 per cent of all degrees will be degree apprenticeships as students can earn whilst they learn, graduate with no debt and get a good skilled job at the end of their qualification. I would like to congratulate Exeter, one of our top universities, for shining a light on degree apprenticeships. I would also like to give hearty congratulations to all those degree apprentices receiving their honours awards. I wish them all every success.”
This year sees the first Financial Services graduates for J.P.Morgan, who have been working with the University of Exeter for the past four years and have helped to design and develop new programmes.
Degree apprenticeships are designed to improve an organisation’s performance, productivity and resilience by addressing important skill gaps. They help businesses retain and attract the best talent by providing career development opportunities. They also provide opportunities for employees and school leavers wishing to upskill and climb the career ladder.
Degree apprentice Matt Tudor, Director of Commercial Development, Strategy and Partnerships at Bridgwater & Taunton College, collected his MBA. His project focused on the digital transformation of learning for students at the college during the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt said: “Studying for a degree apprenticeship has made a phenomenal difference to my life and work. It was an amazing opportunity to study at the University of Exeter, something I never expected to be able to do.
“I didn’t do well at school and remember arriving at the university feeling daunted about being in that environment. But everyone has been unbelievably supportive and has gone out of their way to help you to succeed.
“Studying for a degree apprenticeship has changed the way I think and work. It’s given me a greater insight into how business works and allowed me to share practice with like-minded peers. At work it’s helped me contribute more to the college’s strategic direction, and I’ve established a new business within the college which has generated an income of £1m.
“I was so proud to graduate alongside my mum, wife and two daughters, who have supported me all the way through.”