New era for degree apprenticeships as UWE takes lead in expanding provision

Issue date: 06 March 2017

A new generation of professional apprentices will embark on degree-level courses at the University of the West of England this autumn as the university takes the lead in response to a Government drive to increase on-the-job education.

UWE Bristol is working to deliver a five-fold increase in students taking degree apprenticeships, enrolling 120-140 degree apprentices in September.

The university was the only higher education institution in the West of England region to secure funding last year to support an expansion of degree apprenticeships as part of a national pilot development programme.

A grant of £350,000 was awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to support a regional consortia led by UWE Bristol to develop a suite of degree apprenticeship programmes that will result in a portfolio of six programmes – five at bachelor's and one at master's level.

Designed by employers, universities and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships combine paid work with study for a higher-level qualification.

The new UWE Bristol degree apprentices – employees of organisations based in the area - will study part-time for qualifications ranging from engineering and management to chartered surveying, IT and digital technology. The HEFCE funding has been used to support the development and adaptation of programmes to ensure they meet employer needs and defined national apprenticeship standards.

UWE Bristol is working in partnership with four regional colleges to develop its portfolio of courses, which may expand further in subsequent years to meet demand from employers.

Dr John Lanham, Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Director of Strategic Regional Partnerships at UWE Bristol, said: “Degree apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for all parties. Employers can develop and train their staff in key areas of their business while employees – the apprentices – can combine professional development with a degree programme designed for their work role. As a university, degree apprenticeships build on our long running commitment to support the region's employers and we are delighted to be helping shape and develop degree apprenticeships.”

The expansion of degree apprenticeships at UWE Bristol follows major Government changes to apprenticeship funding aimed at strengthening the reputation of on-the-job education by raising standards and creating more high quality opportunities. From next month, an 'apprenticeship levy' will be imposed on the country's largest companies to free up millions of pounds to support apprenticeships. All UK employers with a payroll of more than £3 million a year will pay a levy of 0.5 per cent.

The commitment to expand the number, range, and quality of apprenticeships will see universities and colleges across England offering 5,200 new opportunities to apprentices and their employers.

UWE Bristol has previously worked with regional colleges and employers including Airbus and GE Aviation to offer degree apprenticeships in subjects including Electronic & Computing Engineering and Aerospace Engineering.

Tracie Gaston, Engineering Graduate Manager at GE Aviation, said: “We train apprentices because they, along with graduates and interns, are a key part of our Early Talent Pipeline ensuring a highly skilled workforce for our future growth.

“We can recruit highly motivated individuals and provide them with specific training and development to meet our current, and future, skills needs.

“For employers considering taking on apprentices, I recommend partnering with a university or college with a good understanding of apprenticeships to provide the academic content.”

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