'Rise to the top' – UWE Bristol and partner colleges support apprenticeships across the region

Issue date: 18 March 2016

Engineering student

It's National Apprenticeship Week 2016 (14-18 March) - an annual celebration of apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

With this year's focus on higher skills, the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is committed to helping young apprentices across the region achieve their goals with a range of established and new higher apprenticeships designed with employers and local colleges to meet the increasing demand for high level skills.

September marked the launch of Gloucestershire's first trailblazer apprenticeship in engineering – BEng (Hons) Degree Apprenticeship in Electronic and Computing Engineering. A collaboration between UWE Bristol, Gloucestershire College and GE Aviation, the trailblazer apprenticeship has been designed by employers for employers to produce highly skilled and employable professionals who can meet the growing local demand for qualified engineers.

Sixteen apprentices at leading engineering companies including 13 from GE Aviation are working while studying for their Level 6 qualification at the College and UWE Bristol's state-of-the art engineering facilities.

This is the University's second successful trailblazer degree in the region. Last summer saw the first set of Airbus apprentices achieve their degrees, progressing from the FdSc Aerospace Engineering Manufacturing course run with City of Bristol College.

Dr Catherine Hobbs, Head of the Department for Engineering, Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol, said, “UWE Bristol is delighted to be working with Airbus to provide the academic input into the degree apprentice scheme.

“That Airbus chose UWE Bristol to work with on this scheme is an endorsement from a key industry player of the quality of the education we provide. This year's graduating apprentices have been a great group to work with, dedicated to getting their degrees alongside their work.

“They have shown initiative in helping both their employer and the two education providers involved, UWE Bristol and City of Bristol College, to get the scheme right as we progressed through this pioneering approach to gaining degree status.”

UWE Bristol and Bridgwater College have collaborated on the Foundation Degree in Mechatronics at Bridgwater College which is also offered as part of a Higher Apprenticeship. On successful completion of the course, students can progress onto the final year of (BEng/MEng) Electronic Engineering. Graduates with these highly sought-after skills and knowledge find roles within industries such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, defence, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, energy and water.

Mechatronics is the melding of electronics and mechanical systems to create intelligent, flexible and adaptive engineering solutions. Mechatronic systems are at the heart of the cars we drive, the white goods we have at home, the planes we use to fly on holiday and the power stations that provide our electricity. The intelligence that comes from the electronics enables the mechanical systems to deliver reliable, flexible and environmentally efficient solutions in these varied areas of modern life.

Dr John Lanham, Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Technology at UWE Bristol, said, “National Apprenticeship Week is an excellent opportunity to showcase how UWE Bristol is working across the region with partner colleges and employers to support the governments ambitions in apprenticeships.

“These new Trailblazer Degree Apprenticeships build on UWE's long and established track record of supporting the regional industries and economy. We are fully committed to partnering with companies to develop relevant and professionally accredited programmes of study to support the development of their staff. It has always been a key activity at the University and the new funding framework created by the employer levy will provide further encouragement for companies and those seeking a degree apprenticeship as a route to the start of their professional career. The new trailblazer standard model offers school leavers a funded route to study for a degree, combined with work experience which will give them a head start to a professional career.”

Our partner organisations City of Bristol College and Weston College offer an apprenticeship in Health and Social Care as part of Foundation Degrees in Health and Social Care Practice and Care Management in the Community. Employers are key decision makers in whether their staff undertake the apprenticeship whilst undergoing the foundation degree. The benefit for students is an additional universally recognised qualification taken at the same time as they are studying for their foundation degree. Employers have a member of staff with additional qualifications, which will meet government targets for increased numbers of staff with Higher Apprenticeship qualifications.

New for 2017 is UWE Bristol's proposed Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA). This is an industry-driven and government-supported programme where apprentices work full-time with their employer, while studying towards a BA (Hons) Leadership and Management Practice at UWE Bristol. Developed in association with the CMI, the Degree Apprenticeship is designed to enable businesses to develop their own graduate-level employees through a programme which combines a university business education, work-based learning and professional development through to Chartered Manager status of the CMI.

UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve West, said, “The Government's significant apprenticeship levy being introduced in April 2017 will mean companies with an annual wage bill of £3 million or higher will wish to capitalise on a levy of 0.5 per cent on company payrolls and offer potential recruits this training otherwise they will lose out. Not only will we be offering some very well-regarded Degree Apprenticeships but as a University we will be looking to offer opportunities to our own apprenticeships rather than miss out.”

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