It has been three years since the first Apprenticeship Standards were published, and almost two-and-a-half since the idea of the Apprenticeship Levy was first announced in the Budget by George Osborne. In this time we have seen an explosion of new Standards coming to the market as employers in every sector respond to the key questions and opportunities created by this new landscape.
We came up with 4 key steps to make the most of the Degree Apprenticeships opportunities: Power, Partner, Plan and Perfect.
1. Power - you’re in the driving seat
It is fascinating to see the new partnerships and diverse delivery models emerging from employers’ conversations with training providers. From ‘traditional’ day-release arrangements to more extensive blocks on-campus in which apprentices are immersed in the student experience to technology-led blended models, everything is on the table.
Universities and employers have been challenged to step away from ‘standard’ delivery and engage with the idea that degree apprenticeships are not ‘just’ degrees with extended work placements. In principle, they bring together the best of industry apprenticeships and higher education, pulling together household-name employers and leading universities.
HEFCE’s Head of Skills, Nicola Turner, told UVAC’s recent annual conference that employers occupy a position of power with respect to training providers. The increasing number of universities engaging with the degree apprenticeship agenda gives companies a huge choice of partners, or the leverage to convince existing partner institutions to implement new programmes. Innovative learning models, including using the latest online delivery methods, give space for quality collaboration between employers and providers regardless of geography.
2. Partner - find your co-pilot
The most common challenges companies face tend to be bridging their skills gap(s) and accessing the right expertise. These challenges can be turned into real opportunities when companies find a University-partner who will help them attract the right candidates and provide the best suited training for these candidates.
Learning from the experience of implementing the BSc Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship, the University of Exeter have sought opportunities to expand its apprenticeship offering, in particular into Engineering. A hugely exciting new partnership with Laing O’Rourke developed to design a BEng Civil Engineering Site Management programme, launched in the 2017/18 academic year. The programme aims to train high-calibre engineers for the country’s largest infrastructure projects, including Hinkley Point C.
3. Plan – design your vehicle
Working with trusted partners creates new opportunities for industry and education. Programme content is tailored to provide real-world experience, while programme delivery can happen on-site or on location. Opportunities are endless when all partners think outside the box and remain flexible.
Exeter’s Civil Engineering apprenticeship development has been collaborative from the outset – starting from the objective of building a programme which would respond to Laing O’Rourke’s needs in terms of training content, but also their challenges in terms of delivery. With projects around the country, a mobile workforce and the demands of individual site managers on prospective apprentices’ time, the challenge for Exeter was to ensure educational excellence while minimising disruption to business as usual.
Given the importance of ensuring the best possible experience for this new kind of Exeter student, and the relationship with employers, the new model presented challenges and questions which caused both the University and partners to rethink many of their usual ways of working.
Simplicity is a key feature of the final model: over a five-year period, apprentices will spend four blocks of two weeks per year learning at Exeter’s Streatham Campus. They will attend lectures, tutorials and labs, as well as specially arranged sessions to engage them with the on-campus experience. Outside of these intensive teaching times, apprentices will work full-time, gain work experience and test their new knowledge in their work place.
4. Perfect – keep in pole position
Input from employers is the foundation of a successful degree apprenticeship, both in the design phase and throughout the running of the course. In response to employers’ further challenges to optimise training for existing staff or recent hires, the University of Exeter is working with partners to explore postgraduate-level Engineering apprenticeships, as well as broadening the offer to both the Contracting and Consulting elements of the Civil Engineering industry.
Professor Pete Vukusic, Associate Dean (Education) of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter, recently said that communication with employers as well as flexibility and responsiveness is the key lesson learned from the University’s journey to date, and is central to its ongoing engagement with industry partners. “We welcome all input from prospective and current employers in the development of our programmes, and look forward to all conversations with industry.”