Degree Apprenticeships are mutually beneficial for employee and employer - yet the Apprenticeship Levy still isn't being fully utilised. Here, Arden University's Degree Apprenticeship Team Leader, Tim Robson, discusses how apprenticeships benefit both parties.

Colleagues smiling at their desks at work

Studying for a Degree Apprenticeship is the modern way to securing a recognised qualification without giving up on existing work commitments, providing a gateway to an enhanced career - and there are numerous benefits to the employer, as well as the employee.

Apprenticeship standards are employer-led specifications which detail the skills, knowledge and behaviours someone needs in order to fulfil a named professional role. 

At present, there are just over 200 Higher, Degree and Master's Apprenticeships Standards approved in the United Kingdom, and it’s fair to say that some sectors are far more invested in this method of training than others; leading the way is the engineering and manufacturing industry, closely followed by health and science.

As an apprentice, such an educational programme enables you to gain a qualification which provides you with both the technical and academic skills, such as critical thinking, required to operate at a more senior level within organisations, opening doors that would likely remain closed without formal education.

A Degree Apprenticeship is a viable alternative to a full-time degree course, which typically costs somewhere in the region of £9,250 a year and, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2017, results in graduates racking up debts of over £50,000. 

Degree Apprenticeships link module learning outcomes with the Standard’s knowledge, skills and behaviours, enabling the apprentice to get a deeper understanding of how theoretical concepts and models can be applied in the work place setting.

For example, the knowledge competence from the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship requires the apprentice to ‘know how to create marketing and sales strategies, segment and target relevant markets and customers (global and local), and understand the need for innovation in product and service design’. 

By linking this competence to a relevant degree module and its assessment requirements - in this case Business Analysis - the apprentice is able to gain a deeper understanding of how the marketing concepts work from both a theoretical perspective and, most importantly, how these concepts apply in the context of their workplace and how they can be used to improve business performance.

As well as enabling the apprentice enhancing their knowledge and skillset, employers too are seeing the benefits of Degree Apprenticeships, and the impact it can have on their organisation, from both a performance and learning and development perspective.

Employers with existing apprentices at level 3 can offer a clear progression route to a higher qualification and therefore retain talented employees; for other employers, it enables them to cost-effectively upskill their existing staff, or attract talented new employees to fill the identified skills gaps within the organisation.

The need to be cost-effective when considering learning and development strategies is particularly important when employers are facing reductions in budgets, which can result in a reluctance to allow staff to attend traditional day release courses and cover staff travel costs.

The range of skills gaps employers are looking to fill range from sector-specific technical skills to more generic management skills, such as:

  • Ecommerce
  • Commercial awareness
  • Negotiation skills
  • Managing change
  • Business improvement
  • Analytical skills
  • Understanding the impact of the political, economic, social, technological and legal factors on the business and the sector they operate in

So, there we have it: Degree Apprenticeships provide a unique opportunity for both the apprentice and the employer. Apprentices are able to access a qualification which enables then to develop themselves without taking on the large amount of debt their full-time university student counterparts are forced to take.

In this sense, Degree Apprenticeships will play a significant role in facilitating the Government’s agenda of widening participation in higher education. From an employer’s perspective, these new qualifications provide a cost-effective mechanism for attracting and retaining talented employees and upskilling existing personnel to ensure that the organisation remains responsive to the challenging demands of its external environment.

Whether you’re an employer looking to upskill your workforce, or an employee in search of a career boost, one of the Arden Degree Apprenticeship programmes could offer what you’re looking for.

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