From education to employment

UK’s first ever degree apprentices graduate from Aston University

The UK’s first ever degree apprenticeship programme has been praised by the Minster for Apprenticeships and Skills, as today (17 July) the first cohort graduated from Aston University.
A unique partnership between the university’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Capgemini a global consulting, technology and outsourcing company, the programme revolutionises the way young people develop high level skills through apprenticeships, offering them the chance to gain a degree whilst employed in industry, with their tuition fees paid by their employer.
After four and a half years of study whilst employed, the first 11 apprentices have all achieved a BSc (honours) in Digital and Technology Solutions – with seven awarded first class and the others second class degrees.
Ten of the 11* attended their graduation ceremony this afternoon, the first day of Aston University’s week of graduation ceremonies at Birmingham Town Hall. 
Anne milton100x100The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Anne Milton, said today:
“I am delighted to offer my own personal congratulations to the UK’s first ever degree apprentice graduates. The hard work and commitment involved is truly admirable and highlights the opportunities apprenticeships can bring.
“I hope this will encourage more people to consider a degree apprenticeship. It is a great way to earn while you learn at some of the UK’s top universities and to go on to secure a rewarding job. Well done to all the students and also congratulations to both Aston University and Capgemini for breaking new ground.”
Today’s ceremony was attended by Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, who commented:
“I am absolutely delighted to attend the graduation of the first cohort of degree apprentices in the country, for what is a momentous occasion.
“Degree apprenticeships are a significant step forward, providing the opportunity to develop and nurture talented individuals, and are a key part of our apprenticeships reform programme – with the ambition of creating three million quality apprenticeships by 2020 – and includes apprenticeships at higher levels, in more occupations and sectors.
“The 11 degree apprentices graduating highlight the significance of higher level apprenticeships and the benefits to apprentices and their employer. Capgemini must be extremely proud of their successes.”
Professor Ian Nabney, Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University, added:
“Degree apprenticeships are a valuable option to applicants whose learning style is less suited to a traditional on-campus study route. The difference in delivery, allows them to apply their learning in the workplace rather than the classroom. This offers those with the right skills and aptitudes a challenging but rewarding route to graduate level jobs, while their academic achievement is recognised as being at the same high level as a traditionally-earned degree.”  
Ruth South, Head of Graduate and Apprenticeship Programmes at Capgemini, said:
“We wholeheartedly congratulate 11 of our apprentices on becoming the first graduates of an industry sponsored digital and technology solutions degree – it’s a fantastic achievement highlighting their commitment and landmark not only for us, but for the digital industry as a whole.
“The grades they have achieved are remarkable, with 100% gaining a 2:2 or above and 64% achieving a 1st, which is more than double the Aston-on-campus average. This truly demonstrates that a degree apprenticeship delivers outstanding results.
“This programme is one of many educational initiatives we have in place in our efforts to create pathways to employment for young people of all backgrounds and develop leaders of the future to plug the digital skills gap. Over the course of this year we will be hiring 100 new degree apprentices in a variety of roles and locations, as we look to build on our hard work to support and inspire young people and unlock their potential, today and for the future.”
Graduate 24-year-old James Gee, of Charlton, Worcestershire, said:
“I checked the ‘find an apprenticeship’ site on and the description was exactly what I wanted: a sponsored degree programme as a software engineer that would allow me to earn, learn and work all at the same time.
“Every day is different but I always learn something new. I build complex system integrations, web applications and anything that involves custom software. Among the highpoints of the last five years has been winning West Midlands Higher Apprentice of the Year, watching a user of assistive technologies struggle to use an application we built, writing a script that fixed many of the issues and watching her joy at how much easier things were – and a four week holiday in Australia that was only affordable because of my apprenticeship!”
James Jones, aged 25, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, said:
“I’ve gained the salary of a graduate years before I would have graduated taking a traditional bricks and mortar degree. I haven’t paid tuition fees but have been paid a salary to attend virtual lectures and tutorials and to apply this learning instantly in my role as a software developer.
“From the very start of the programme I’ve been working on designing and building software for high profile clients around the country.”
The work-based degree apprenticeship programme is a Tech Partnership-led initiative developed with the Government to enable young people to achieve a degree whilst employed in industry, with their tuition fees paid by the employer.
A further 240 apprentices are currently on the Capgemini Degree Apprenticeship Programme with Aston University and will graduate over the next five years. As apprentices with Capgemini, their roles may include software developer, technical applications consultant, insights and data consultant or cyber security.

Degree apprenticeships give people the opportunity to attain a Degree from some of the country’s best universities and higher education institutions whilst training in a top flight career. They and are already available in sectors such as Automotive, Banking, Digital Industries, Chartered Surveying, Aerospace and the Nuclear industry. Many universities and colleges are offering higher and degree apprenticeships across the country.

Higher and Degree apprenticeships are available at levels 4 to 7 and combine work with study and may include a work-based, academic or combined qualification or a professional qualification relevant to the industry. Level 6 is equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree and level 7 is equivalent to a Master’s Degree. Typically, higher apprentices study part-time at college, university or with a training provider.

Currently, over 240,000 workplaces employ an apprentice including Capgemini, Ford, ITV, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Barclays and the BBC, alongside many small and medium sized enterprises.

The first 11 students to graduate are:

Software engineers
Callum WoodMichael Askew (based Holborn, London) *graduation deferred until 2018
Jack Eker (based Woking)
Dan Fox (based Aston, Birmingham)
James Gee (based Aston, Birmingham)
Satvinder Hullait (based Aston, Birmingham)
Alexander Johnson (based Aston, Birmingham)
James Jones (based Aston, Birmingham)
Greg Wolverson  (based Aston, Birmingham)
Callum Wood (based Aston, Birmingham)
Business Analysts
Ali Ahmed (based Holborn, London)
Andre Sobers (based Holborn, London)
About Aston University: Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. Aston University is an experienced and leading authority on degree apprenticeships and was heavily involved in the production of a UCAS video, Progression Pathways 2017: degree apprenticeships in focus filmed on the Aston campus and released in June 2017. The video highlights the key progression pathways available to prospective students and aims to raise awareness of all the options.
The National Apprenticeship Service: The National Apprenticeship Service supports the delivery of apprenticeships and traineeships in England. It offers free impartial advice and support to employers looking to recruit for the first time or expand their apprenticeship and traineeship workforce. This includes simplifying the process of recruiting an apprentice or trainee through the support of employer focused teams, Find an apprenticeship and Find a traineeship recruitment sites on GOV.UK where employers can advertise their vacancies and potential apprentices or trainees can apply.

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