As many as 59 Higher Education Institutions have implemented degree apprenticeship programmes and have seen enormous success in doing so, widening participation and increasing social mobility. This year could see a proliferation of degree apprenticeships as an alternative route for businesses and students.

As the average student leaves university with debts of £50,000, it is little wonder degree apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to the traditional degree route. Students are now experiencing university education while earning a living through these collaborative ‘earn-as-you-learn’ schemes. Businesses can attract new talent while students benefit from a salaried, blended-learning environment – a revolution in higher education possibilities.

Aston University and Capgemini were trailblazers with the introduction of the country’s first Digital and Technological Solutions degree apprenticeship in 2015.

Terry Hodgetts, Director of the Centre for Executive Development at Aston University, Ben Rubery, Apprentice Programme Manager at Capgemini and James Gee, Capgemini degree apprenticeship graduate share their insight into the win-win potential for students and businesses.

  • Ben Rubery
  • Terry Hodgetts
  • James Gee

Apprentice Programme Manager at Capgemini

What impact have degree apprenticeships had on your business?

“It’s gone beyond our initial expectations. We’re able to essentially grow our own innovative, highly-qualified technologists for the future. The programmes give our apprentices everything they need to deliver in their day-to-day job and also deliver for our clients, which is vital.

Sixty-four per cent of our degree apprentice graduates were awarded a first class degree. That’s more than double what regular on-campus students are achieving, which goes to show how well the blended learning model works.”

 

Why did you decide to introduce degree apprenticeships?

“We wanted to differentiate and recognised a need to grow skills in key areas. Introducing an apprenticeship programme enabled us to grow our own people, technology and capability across the sector.

 

What advice would you give for making the most out of degree apprenticeships?

“Firstly, it’s easy to look at the scheme and think, ‘Let’s get loads of apprentices in!’ But for us, it’s all about the quality of the programme rather the quantity of people on it. Providing those who have gone down the apprenticeship route with the best opportunity to learn and develop is mutually beneficial. 

It’s important to diversify your apprenticeship programmes and explore areas of the business that have not exploited apprenticeship programmes yet. We have plans to roll this out across HR and Finance and diversify its application. It’s also a great way to re-skill your current employees.”

 

What are your plans for degree apprenticeships in the future?

“We are starting to work on developing the master’s level apprenticeship for Digital and Technology Solutions, which is really exciting for us. We also had our first cohort of Cyber Security apprentices towards the end of last year, and now we are pushing on with them into degree apprenticeships. It’s lots of work, but it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

 

For more information about degree apprenticeships at Aston University visit www.aston.ac.uk/NAW

Director of the Centre for Executive Development at Aston University

What are the benefits of degree apprenticeships to prospective students?

“The obvious one is there is no debt. They are earning money, building their experience and their CV as they go. To my mind, this makes a very attractive proposition for a thinking young person.

But we’re also seeing a strong relationship developing between the employee and their employer. Degree apprenticeships last for up to five years, offering a wealth of quality work experience in their industry which sets them apart from the competition.”

 

Do employers like taking on degree apprentices?

“Employers are waking up to this now; the opportunity to get these people young, get them integrated into the culture and get them used to the working environment. The beauty of the degree apprenticeship approach is that these new employees learn the rhythm of a professional working environment as they study. So not only are they able to get first class undergraduate tuition, they are gaining critical employability skills on the ground.”

 

What opportunities do degree apprenticeships present for those already in work?

“The government talks a lot about the social mobility agenda in relation to degree apprenticeships and I think this is potentially one of the most powerful opportunities. Those people who have a few years of experience under their belt who – because of their life circumstances, chances or the decisions they made – didn’t go to university when they might have done can still benefit from and value that education.”

 

What are the short-, medium- and long-term benefits to companies?

“In the short-term, degree apprenticeships are a relatively low-risk, low-cost route to bring people onboard and develop them internally. Internal development is an important one to think about.

In the medium-term, businesses gain a rapidly developing resource with the latest learning, research, tools, models, techniques and approaches that are being taught in universities.

In the long-term, businesses are building a talent pipeline that is more aware of the softer skills of the workplace, more able to make sense of and apply technical/theoretical learnings from their degree to the benefit of the business and, on a personal level, is more committed to that organisation.”

 

For more information about degree apprenticeships at Aston University visit www.aston.ac.uk/NAW

Degree Apprentice Graduate at Capgemini

What made you decide to take the degree apprenticeship route rather than a traditional, academic degree?

“I learn better through doing so apprenticeships were ideal. My brother did a similar scheme and I saw him ‘earn-and-learn’ and it made me jealous! It’s a real positive about apprenticeships, and I definitely feel like I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I would have been if I’d taken the traditional route.”

 

How has doing a degree apprenticeship benefited you professionally and personally?

“The professional experience is invaluable; you gain ‘battle wounds’ through practical learning and that becomes knowledge. I’ve gained an extensive professional network, which is great for further business and understanding. Personally, I became more confident and I have money coming in, which is good. Plus, no student debt!”

 

How much do you feel valued as an employee as a result of your pathway into the company?

“Very much so. The team recognise your work through the pay you are given and no matter what ‘level’ you are at, your opinion is valued. You are part of a community and all opinions are welcomed. Some of our best ideas have come from our apprentices.”

 

For more information about degree apprenticeships at Aston University visit www.aston.ac.uk/NAW