Ben Lambert of BPP University talks about the rise of the degree apprenticeship

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HRreview’s Robert Leeming speaks to BPP Professional Apprenticeships about how high-level degree apprenticeships are changing the landscape for both young people and employers…

With apprenticeship schemes becoming increasingly popular the government has given a great deal of thought to how apprenticeships have worked in the past and the reasons why some schemes have failed.

At the same time, employers have been encouraged to work collaboratively with partner organisations such as BPP to develop new apprenticeship frameworks, with high level degree apprenticeships being the most recent development.

Degree Apprenticeships from BPP University and BPP Professional Apprenticeships will involve students studying for a degree (awarded by BPP University), while working for a business, giving students the opportunity to learn while on the job. For the first time businesses will be able to offer a long term, work based degree to people who are relatively new to their role.Badge-Links-to-All-Articles

The continuing rise in the numbers of apprenticeships under the current government does have its critics, namely Ofsted, who recently branded lower level apprenticeships as diluted qualifications that were barely worth the paper they were written on.

BPP were completely in favour of Ofsted’s sometimes scathing judgments and back the raising of the quality and profile of apprenticeships to match their own high level.

Company retention

The job market is increasingly in flux, young people are no longer willing to commit great chunks of their working lives to one organisation, and instead they are looking to chop and change in order to scale the career ladder at a quicker rate. Degree apprenticeships, due to the commitment of four years to a given company, will create a sense of loyalty, increasing retention levels.

“Research has found that apprentices are more loyal to the organisation they work for than graduates,” comments Ben Lambert, who is head of strategic programmes at BPP.

“Graduates often enter into a role with an expectation that they are going to partake in a training scheme for two or three years and then move on, whereas employers can engender a sense of loyalty earlier with those doing degree apprenticeships and ultimately craft the talent they have retained into management material.”

The cost

Around 600,000 young people apply for university every year at the moment and in doing so they are making the decision to study for three years, with the added benefits of living away from home gaining all the life experience entailed with that. However, students are expected to pay upwards of £27,000 to do so. Enticingly if a young person chooses a degree apprenticeship, they will not incur any of that debt because there is nothing for them to pay and instead they are being paid a salary by an employer.

“A degree apprenticeship will often cost the same as a traditional degree – £27,000,” Lambert says. “However rather than the student being asked to pay, the government commits to paying up to two thirds of the cost. The employer contributes the final third and can also receive incentives for employing under 18s. There is a completion payment that is paid four years down the track to incentivise an employer to encourage people to complete the course. In some cases a degree apprenticeship could even be cost neutral for an employer.”

Although only very recently developed, degree apprenticeships are already proving popular with both employers and potential candidates. J.P. Morgan are already recruiting for 15 degree apprentices to join their Bournemouth office next September on a technology based programme. Since the roles were advertised last month the company have reported that, for such a recent addition to the J.P. Morgan early career offerings, a notable number of applications have been submitted to date.“

“Degree Apprenticeships provide one of the very best ways to develop relevant knowledge, skills and competences for a business practitioner,” says Professor Tim Stewart, Dean of the Business School at BPP University, who finds the figures encouraging. “Studying whilst working in a business improves the effectiveness of learning.”

The future

“I hope degree apprenticeships change the way that employers look at graduate recruitment,” says Emma O’Dell, BPP’s head of strategic partnerships. “At the moment if you apply for a graduate programme you have to have a degree already to be able to join that programme, but what would be fantastic is to have people who have done degree apprenticeships join too. It would be great if degree apprenticeships could feed into or contribute to overall graduate programmes.”

“In time degrees and degree apprenticeships will have equal weight,” says Lambert. “Previously, employers might have looked at apprentices and in the back of their minds thought that these are great people, but they don’t have a degree. People in management positions today in their thirties and forties will have almost certainly have been to university and have a preconception that degrees somehow have a higher currency, whereas in reality degree apprenticeships are just as challenging, if not more so, as they involve more time and more commitment.”

The government will have to help. School and college league tables are focused on counting how many pupils go onto university. Schools will perhaps need to be required to take into account the number of leavers who go onto apprenticeship schemes when compiling tables.

“I’d like to see at least a third of undergraduates going down the degree apprenticeship route in the future” concludes Lambert. “You are never going to replace the great value of going to a university, living away from home and the life skills that this engenders. But degree apprenticeships will allow young people to get a degree that, for many, would otherwise be out of reach.

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