From education to employment

Degree apprenticeships are a win for all

University of Brighton is leading the way in degree apprenticeships – an ‘earn while you learn’ route that employers say also improves products, productivity and service quality. 

As Managing Director for Croudace Homes Ltd South Thames region, Matthew Norris has seen first hand that having employees undertake degree apprenticeships is beneficial not just for his own company, but also the future of the industry.

“We put a huge amount of store in bringing people into the business and developing them through training and apprenticeships. And it works,” he said.

“And a good proportion of our apprentices go right up to degree level. We often bring people through trade apprenticeships, then they move into a management apprenticeship, and progress to running sites for us.”

Someone showing how that works to everyone’s benefit is Liam Major (pictured at top on right, with Matthew Norris), who combines site management work for Croudace Homes with a Construction Site Manager Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Brighton.

“I started off with an NVQ, then went on to do a Higher National Certificate in Building and the Environment, and now my degree – all through my employer,” Liam explained. 

“What I learn on the apprenticeship programme directly links to my job,” Liam continued.

“It has also given me a greater understanding of what other people are doing within the company and how other roles link, such as how surveyors are pricing things and where they get their rough guides, which directly affects me and my role.”

The appointment last month of Gillian Keegan to the role of Secretary of State for Education may offer a further potential boost to degree apprenticeships, since Keegan began her own working life as an apprentice in the motor industry aged 16, combining on-the-job learning with company sponsored degree study at Liverpool John Moores University.

When she was made the Minister responsible for Apprenticeships and Skills in February 2020, Keegan was also the first person who had been an apprentice to serve as the Minister responsible for them.

Matthew Norris highlights the importance of degree apprenticeships for the vast sector he works in of construction. “In our industry, there’s a massive shortfall in skilled labour, and shortages on the professional side as well,” he says.

“We’ve all got to address this – it’s essential otherwise we won’t have an industry in the future. We put a huge amount of store into bringing people into the business and developing and training them, which works for both ourselves and our trainees.”

Liam picks up the theme. “My employer gets the long-term benefits of what you’ve learnt from working for them and doing a degree at the same time. They’ve then got someone that knows the company, and that will try and work to how they want to achieve things.”

Alongside degree apprenticeships such as Liam’s in Site Management, Croudace Homes are also gaining from staff taking courses in areas such as surveying, engineering, plus sales and marketing.  

The benefits overview 

Degree apprenticeships offer a significant advantage to many candidates by providing a funded pathway to an Honours degree, several years industry experience and professional qualifications. This can be particularly important to those who might otherwise struggle to access higher education.

The University of Brighton has worked with employers throughout the region to lead the way in creating an expanding and highly successful programme of degree apprenticeships, where candidates work, earn a salary, and learn at the same time. With no upper age limit, the average age of its degree apprentices is 33, with the total age range spanning 17 – 60 years.

The number of apprenticeships offered by University of Brighton in digital, environmental and technology roles has increased in recent years, and the university is at the forefront of this trend with Diagnostic Radiographer and Data Analytics all now offered as degree apprenticeships. The university also added new courses in the areas of Chartered Surveyor, Construction Site Manager and Environmental Practitioner to its built environment degree apprenticeships portfolio in September 2021.

The UK’s hard-pressed medical services are also benefiting, thanks to people like Katie Wilmshurst, who is taking a Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship at University of Brighton alongside working for Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.

“I think the apprenticeship route into nursing is needed now more than ever as the current need for nurses and health care professionals grows,” Katie said.

“There is already a huge workforce of health care assistants within the NHS, who are highly skilled and keen to progress to higher grades within the organisation, but the traditional route into nursing is not suitable due to financial and family/care commitments.

This means that workplaces and ultimately the healthcare service are missing out on a wealth of experience and knowledge. Often apprentices have many years of experience in health care and have a huge amount to contribute.”

Liam Major agrees.

“To anyone considering doing an apprenticeship, I would say definitely take it up, it’s worth getting started on. It’s a route that can help you get places, and you can still achieve the same things that other people do in different ways.”

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