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Degrees and higher level apprenticeships

Anja Swan

Created by Anja Swan, 23rd June 2017


A challenge that many businesses face is ensuring that their workforce has the necessary skills, now and in the future, to help the company grow. When looking for skilled people, recruiters often look to two education pathways: degrees and higher level apprenticeships, but what are the benefits that each can offer your business?

We interviewed John Widdowson, Principal and Chief Executive of New College Durham, to find out more about higher level apprenticeships and degrees and what advantages they can offer.

What are higher level apprenticeships?

Higher apprenticeships are fairly new, and anyone who has already done an apprenticeship to level 3, or A levels, can undertake one. They offer an alternative to full time university study, allowing the apprentice to work and get paid while they’re studying. It means that, while they’re learning new skills, they’re still getting the benefit of being in a working environment, plus they don’t have the same level of debt as with a full time degree.

How can higher level apprenticeships benefit businesses?

Larger employers now have to pay a levy, so they can use this to contribute to paying for higher level apprenticeship training. This offers an opportunity to train existing members of staff as well as new apprentices entering the organisation.

Every business is getting more and more technical, and higher level apprenticeships can be a good solution for up-skilling your workforce. One clear advantage is that they’re not just for young people – older people and those already in work can access training and build their skills later in their career too to achieve recognised qualifications at levels 4, 5 and 6.

Some businesses might see the fact that the employee is out of the office for training as a negative, but we find that apprentices tend to be more loyal to their organisation and want to stay long term.

What are degrees?

Higher education degrees have been the standard route into employment for a lot of young people for a long time. The strength that a university degree offers is that you get full immersion in a particular subject, and academic training in that topic.

Some graduates find it hard to apply this academic learning in the workplace, which can give them a slower start when starting work. As a higher education provider, it’s our role to ensure that graduates are well equipped for work when they finish studying, for example by offering enterprise and innovation as part of our degrees.

How can degrees benefit businesses?

As I mentioned before, most companies are becoming more dependent on technology and higher level skills. Post Brexit this means that we could be facing a higher skills shortage as employers find it more difficult to recruit from Europe. Faced with this there is a clear need to upskill and update our workforce as soon as possible.  Many sectors are facing huge skills shortages due to an ageing workforce and lack of investment in training. The HA can support succession planning ensuring the right skills for the employer and the region as a whole. We are certainly going to be working with people from different backgrounds and cultures to increase the number of individuals with higher level skills.

What advice would you give employers when recruiting graduates or apprentices?

First of all, you need to find the right training provider, university or college to work with – they need to offer value for money and high quality provision.

Also, don’t forget to speak with the apprentice – part time study can be demanding, and you need to be sure that they’re committed to it, and are going to get the right pastoral care from your business and the training provider.

Both types of training can be hugely beneficial to businesses, and with a bit of research companies can find the right pathway for them.

Find out more about apprenticeships at New College Durham

Find out more about hiring an apprentice

Anja Swan

Created by Anja Swan, 3 years ago, [last edited 1 year ago]

Tagged under Apprenticeships Skills

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