Degree apprenticeships: how to make the most of the opportunities

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Employers and universities share perspectives on what's working well, challenges and opportunities, one year on from the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

There has been much talk in recent months about the impact that the apprenticeship levy has had on employers and providers. In February 2018, Universities UK hosted a conference specifically focused on degree apprenticeships and the opportunities these provide for universities. This article highlights a range of perspectives shared at the event.

What is working well and what challenges remain?

Nicola Turner, head of skills at HEFCE, spoke about what is going well and less well from the perspective of providers.

Universities have successfully created the infrastructure required to deliver apprenticeships, engaged effectively with employers and recruited staff with new expertise and capabilities to deliver the programmes, developing alternative pedagogies for these work-based programmes. Learners are overall attaining well and showing impressive commitment.

Some of the challenges being experienced include delays in standards being approved and regulatory challenges which can prevent universities from being nimble in responding to employer needs. There are also challenges created by a ‘one size fits all’ system that doesn’t necessarily always fit the needs of higher education.

Best practice examples of successful delivery

Dr Lynne Livesey, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, spoke about the experience of working collaboratively with partners and employers to deliver degree apprenticeships.

Actions that had helped to make this a success included reviewing their learning and teaching strategy, putting in place staff development to understand the challenges of work-based learning and the impact on curriculum development, and investment in IT to make flexible learning available for apprentices at all times.

We also heard from Dr Darryll Bravenboer, director of apprenticeships and skills at Middlesex University, who focused on his experience as part of the trailblazer group for the B2B sales professional.

A key theme was the work the group had done to take a work-integrated learning approach for the delivery of the degree apprenticeship, with the workplace as the primary site of learning and the use of a learning journal to integrate ‘on’ and ‘off’ the job learning. They had also sought to ensure that assessment of professional competence to carry out the role of a B2B sales professional was authentic, for example through an assessed sales pitch.

The employer perspective

Ann Potterton gave a fascinating insight into higher and degree apprenticeships at BT. She emphasised the importance of the overall service that a provider can offer to make the employer’s life easier, over and above delivery of the content.

The ability to offer distance learning, line manager training and support, and data to support with reporting on apprentices were all high on her list of desirable elements of an apprenticeship solution.

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