Degree Apprenticeships are the latest model of apprenticeship to be developed, seeing apprentices achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree – at Levels 6 and 7. While Degree Apprenticeships must last a minimum of one year, the programmes generally last longer than this, typically up to four years, though there is no fixed maximum duration.
Degree apprentices are not eligible for student loans, but their tuition fees are often paid in full or in part by the apprentice employer, and like all other apprentices they are paid a salary as full-time employees. Degree apprentices split their time between university study and the workplace, and will be employed throughout – gaining a full bachelor’s or master’s degree while earning a wage and getting real on-the-job experience in their chosen profession.
In practice, this might mean apprentices spend two days a week at college or university and three days in the office or workplace. Alternatively, they might only go to college or university once a fortnight (or maybe even less). Some employers use a ‘block training’ approach, concentrating the required off-the-job training into weekly or fortnightly slots across the year.
Degree Apprenticeships also offer the rare opportunity to gain experience and form working relationships with high-profile, well-respected companies – potentially even more advantageous than the academic qualifications on offer.
Degree apprentices work towards a full bachelor’s or master’s degree – at Levels 6 and 7 – but also engage in work-based learning and training, as with other apprenticeship levels.
Degree Apprenticeship applicants have the same (if not higher) standards to meet as university applicants. Depending on the apprenticeship, a certain number of UCAS points, often in specific A-levels, will be required, or certain standards must have been achieved on other apprenticeships in a relevant job.
Those completing Degree Apprenticeships are especially employable, as each programme has been designed with the industry’s needs in mind. Groups of businesses, universities and colleges develop bespoke degree courses that allow students to build up skills and experience relevant to that particular industry, making them very employable in the future. Degree apprentices will often be offered a job with their employer at the end of the programme, but if they decide to move on they will have a very attractive set of skills and qualifications with which to progress in their chosen industry.
Another advantage of a Degree Apprenticeship is the working relationships apprentices forge with their employees and colleagues, developing the so-called ‘soft skills’ – effective teamwork, communications, negotiating skills, ability to work under pressure, problem-solving – that employers so desperately want in young recruits. These are often what people say standard university graduates are missing, despite their academic credentials, so a Degree Apprenticeship can arm young people with a desirable, and quite rare, skills set alongside a university qualification.
The Apprentice National Minimum Wage applies to all 16-18-year-old apprentices and those over 19 in the first year of their apprenticeship. After the first year, those over 19 must be paid at least the full National Minimum Wage for their age group. However, many Degree Apprenticeship employers will pay more than this: a £16,000 starting salary, for example, with regular pay reviews.
Degree Apprenticeships are fairly new – they were launched in 2015 – but are already being embraced by prominent employers in various industries such as aerospace engineering, laboratory and nuclear science, public relations, and the digital sector.