At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, WA Associate Director Lorna Jane Russell explores whether degree apprenticeships are the solution to tackling the skills gap
One of the most significant challenges facing the country today is the need to build our future economy and ensure that our workers have the right skills required to support the jobs of the future.
However, at present the outlook looks uncertain; the UK has a serious skills gap. Put simply, this means there is a mismatch between the skills needed to do a particular job and the skills that are available in the workforce.
A skills revolution is required to address this.
In recent years there has been a heightened awareness of the need for graduates to have a diverse range of skills – something that is recognised by policymakers and employers alike.
Indeed, investment in skills and apprenticeships has become a clear Government priority. Skills Minister Robert Halfon has long championed apprenticeships and believes that investment in skills is the best route for the Government to take to create economic growth and productivity, while Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is a former apprentice herself and is committed to boosting the lifelong learning agenda.
As the Government looks to rebalance the funding and focus of post-18 education, publishing the long-awaited Higher Education Bill and taking forward the recommendations from the Augar Review, we expect it to prioritise and expand funding and support for apprenticeships.
Within this context, we hope to see a significant boost for degree apprenticeships as we believe that these could make a real difference to plugging the skills gap and meeting the future needs of both learners and employers.
- Learners earn a salary, gain professional work experience, and finish their course with a degree qualification – all without paying tuition fees.
- Employers develop the courses alongside universities and professional bodies, ensuring that learners have the right skills in place to contribute effectively to the workplace and the economy at large.
Since they were launched in 2015-16, degree apprenticeships have risen in considerable popularity, while traditional university student numbers are starting to fall. Yet, despite growing interest in these types of degrees, there is clear potential to expand them further across the UK.
This National Apprenticeship Week, and ahead of the introduction of the Higher Education Bill, we hope to see the Government set out a roadmap for the expansion of degree apprenticeships – both by investing more resources in them and by working more closely with employers and post-18 education and skills providers to provide more placements and courses.
At WA, we’ll be watching for announcements closely, making sure we are one step ahead of the next developments on the horizon and supporting universities, skills providers, and large employers alike to make the most of the opportunity to expand their own offerings.
Watch this space as we launch our own research next month to take a much deeper dive to explore the potential of these qualifications to transform the country’s skills base. If this sounds of interest, we’d love to chat.