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Employers Accelerate Degree Apprenticeships to Address Skills Gaps and Social Mobility

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A report launched today (26 June 2017) by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) shows acceleration in developing degree apprenticeships as a result of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Developing Degree Apprenticeships: the Employer Perspective is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to better understand the strategies deployed by a range of employers of different sizes and sectors1.

It showed that almost half (44%) of employers have accelerated their degree apprenticeship strategy as a result of the Levy. This is unlikely to be at the expense of more traditional graduate programmes with just 22% of employers agreeing that they would be cutting graduate numbers as a result of
 an accelerated approach.

Of the levy-paying employers surveyed, 56% are offering or planning to offer one of the 18 approved degree apprenticeships available at the time of the survey. Large employers with more than 5,000 employees are more likely to do
so than smaller ones, as are employers in construction, financial services and the legal sector.

The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship is predicted to grow between 2016 to 2019 by more than 400% to just over 1,000 apprenticeships. In the same period, employers are planning for growth of over 280% to 635 Digital & Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeships.

One of the main drivers for the apprenticeship policies and the levy in particular is to increase the level 
of productivity in the UK by addressing skills gaps. This is recognised by employers as 73% stated that degree apprenticeships may be a part of solving the skills gap issue within their organisation. Only 13% did not see a clear link.

Another driver for apprenticeships is to offer career opportunities to young people that might not otherwise have considered them. This may be linked to avoiding the cost of attending university in the traditional way, reaching young people who did not realise such career options were open to them, or offering a more attractive ‘earn and learn’ option. The survey asked employers whether their apprenticeship and social mobility strategy are linked, and 77% answered positively with only 5% of employers stating outright that recruiting apprentices will not contribute to their social mobility agenda.

The most frequently cited issues employers face in developing degree apprenticeships are around the lack of awareness (60%) and reputation (60%) as well as unknown student demand (42%).

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the AGR said:

“Given how much financial and time investment goes into the development of a degree apprenticeship, employers are naturally concerned about being able to attract the talent they need to their programmes. However, the returns could be bountiful with an expectation that they could help reduce skills gaps and address social mobility challenges.

“To increase the range of degree apprenticeships offered we are calling for greater clarity on the creation and implementation of programmes and the development of their profile in schools. There is significant interest in the groups of employers developing apprenticeship standards, but the process of approval and getting to market has to be sped up.

“Degree apprenticeships will prove
 a success if enough are developed in key occupational areas, and employers and providers can work in partnership with flexibility on both sides. The future of early talent recruitment and development will look different, but degree apprenticeships are a long- term game and not a short-term fix.”