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Degree Apprenticeships

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Many students expect that their educational journey will follow a set, well-trodden path – GCSEs, then A Levels, a degree and then a job. Even for the youngest boys in the school, this can seem like a predetermined future that awaits them as they progress through school life.
However, with changes to student tuition, the Institute for Fiscal Studies now estimates that the average university student will graduate with over £50,000 in student debt. Coupled with this, there has been an increase in interest on this debt to 6.1%. These changes have seen student satisfaction with the “value for money” offered by university slump to a record low, with just 35% believing it is ‘good’ or ‘very good’ value in 2017. Equally with the graduate market becoming ever more crowded, just 65% of graduates in 2018 went on to be employed in highly-skilled roles. So, is there another way?

Launched by the government in 2015, degree apprenticeships offer an opportunity for the brightest students to earn a wage whilst also studying for a bachelors or master’s degree. This is a fantastic opportunity that is sometimes hampered by the inclusion of the word ‘apprenticeship’ in its title which can be off-putting to those with pre-conceptions of old-fashioned apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships are not a route for students who cannot cope with university; far from it. Rather, degree apprenticeships are challenging and highly competitive that require students to able to balance the demands of work and study.

Degree apprentices are hired by companies for between 3 and 6 years and split their time between work and university. The employer will pay both the tuition fees for the degree course to be studied, whilst also paying them a salary which is usually upwards of £20,000 per year. Notably, 80% of degree apprenticeships are employed following their qualification by the company that hired them as a degree apprentice, giving these students a considerable leg-up in finding graduate employment.

These considerable benefits means that degree apprenticeships highly sought after and therefore highly competitive. Often, students need to apply to several vacancies to be successful, with anywhere between 150 to 2000 applicants for each vacancy advertised. Whilst there is no student loan available for those who take up a degree apprenticeship, the amount they earn outstrips the value of regular student financial support. Some degree apprenticeships are even able to offer accommodation so that students can experience both student life and the world of work over the course of their apprenticeship.

The challenge for many students in choosing to follow this route is the variability within the world of degree apprenticeships. Whilst many apprenticeships commence in September as a normal academic year, vacancies are advertised as they arise. Unlike the university application process, there are no set deadlines for all applications to completed; rather each vacancy and each company will have its own timeline. Each university may deliver their degree differently to the apprentices. The salary and workload split will vary between companies offering degree apprenticeships. The length of the apprenticeship will depend on the course to be studied. In short, students are required to do considerably more leg-work for themselves, researching each opportunity before deciding whether it is the right one for them. Whilst websites such as
UCAS, Unifrog and the government’s National Apprenticeship Service each list some of the available vacancies, there is no central database to find them.

Here at LGS, we have seen an increasing amount of interest in the degree apprenticeship route. In this academic year we have been able to celebrate our first ever offers come in for degree apprenticeships in. There is of course support that we can offer to students who choose this route. Amazing Apprenticeships visited us at the Year 12 ‘Life after LGS’ evening in January and will visit us again on the Year 12 UCAS day in June. They offer specialist advice on finding vacancies, completing applications and being successful in interview. Our Sixth Form staff are also increasingly well-versed in this post-18 route, as is our careers’ advisor. Given the variably nature of degree apprenticeships, such support has to be offered on a one-to-one basis and we are always pleased to advise boys who want to follow this route.

Ultimately, the graduate market is a changing, challenging and competitive environment. For boys who choose to look for innovative paths through the post-18 world, degree apprenticeships can offer an exciting challenge, and one we hope will continue to grow in its appeal.