You could be forgiven for not having heard of postgraduate degree apprenticeships, also known as level 7 apprenticeships, which were launched in March 2015 with just 30 learners. But these master’s-level programmes have big potential.
The Department for Education says it expects uptake to increase when the apprenticeship levy comes into force in May. And while only a few apprenticeships are available, such as in systems engineering or digital technology solutions, there are plenty more in the works, including teaching.
With level 7 apprenticeships, students will have an undergraduate degree or equivalent, and be expected to be working for their sponsor company.
There’s a lot of talk about apprenticeships at the moment, including the dreaded apprenticeship levy.
I can imagine some schools are furious that they are going to have to pay for something that right now has no meaning to them.
I believe in the apprentice programme. My school has a strong track record in supporting apprentices.
We currently employ 13 apprentices across the school, specialising in skills such as sports tuition, business administration, finance, nursery education and specialist education.
Apprentices spend one day a week at our local college to gain a qualification in their specialist area. After two years they can seek employment or higher education.
Budget must deliver investment that schools ‘desperately need’, say heads and governors
Headteachers and governors have warned of the “impossible choices” they are being forced to make because of the school funding crisis.
In an open letter to the chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond ahead of his budget speech on March 8, the NAHT headteachers’ union and the National Governors’ Association call for the amount of funding per pupil to be protected.
They say school budgets are under “serious pressure” as a result of increases in costs and, while schools are doing their best to “make do”, there are “only so many financial efficiencies a school can find before reaching breaking point”.
The organisations highlight seven key areas of concern: ensuring sufficient funding, the impact of the apprenticeship levy on maintained schools, the cut to the education services grant, shortfalls in high needs funding, sufficient funding for sixth forms, funding for early years including protecting nursery schools, and automatic registration for pupil premium pupils.
Mia Angell’s 18-year-old son is expected to do well in his A-levels and has had offers from three Russell Group universities to study computer science. However, he’s also applied for a degree apprenticeship with a government organisation, after his school brought it to parents’ attention. Angell thinks that it’s a good alternative: “It makes sense for him to get some hands-on experience, get paid while he’s doing it and also get a degree at the end of it.”
This view illustrates a growing acceptance among both parents and students that apprenticeship schemes offer a good alternative to other academic routes.
Keisha Walker, head of careers and employability at Phoenix Academy in London, says there has been a surge of interest this year, from both high achievers and less academic students, particularly in subjects such as engineering and ICT. Walker does, however, sound a note of caution: “I do say to the students: ‘Apprenticeships are so competitive that you still need to apply to a university or college as a backup.”
Colleges working closely with employers could help with the so-called ‘image problem’ of apprenticeships, writes one college executive.
According to reports in the media, apprenticeships are great. They’re becoming more and more popular and have huge backing from the government, so it seems odd to read in a survey that more than 90 per cent of 18-24 year olds aren’t interested in starting one. So what’s going on?
The survey results suggest that apprenticeships have an image problem, and young people, along with two-thirds of people aged over 55, thought that going to university would be a much better career option. The biggest reason for this is said to be poor careers advice being given at school.
But figures and student stories would suggest that there has never been a better time to start an apprenticeship. Nationally, there were almost 500,000 apprenticeships started in 2014-15, which was a 12 per cent increase from the year before.
GCSE Results Day has arrived. On August 25, thousands of students across the country, will be considering their options for the future.
Although A-levels remain the traditional route taken for post-16 education, there are several alternatives that students can consider. Here is our guide to apprenticeships, BTECs, NVQs, and traineeships.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships combine study with practical training on the job, and provide an excellent alternative to A-levels.
Headteachers are to ask the government to tackle staffing shortages by approving the first apprenticeship for teachers.
The scheme would allow A-level students to join the profession without going to university. It is being proposed by the Teaching Schools Council, which believes that a teaching apprenticeshipcould play a crucial role in attracting people from less affluent backgrounds into the profession.
Teaching Schools Council member Stephen Munday told TES that it was hoped the apprenticeship could help schools in more disadvantaged areas to recruit staff.
When finishing A-levels, many young people think the only option is to go to university to study for a degree. But for some, the sheer scale of tuition fees and living costs is a disincentive, when compared to the perceived benefit of having a degree.
Put simply, they feel they cannot justify the expense of a three-year full-time course when there is a risk there will be no job at the end of it.
But there is another way. Regardless of grades, there is the option of studying for a degree or higher level qualification at an FE college. College HE is often better value for money, as the provision is available in the local community and travel and accommodation expenses are significantly reduced. Plus it can be more flexible, with options to study part-time for those already in a full-time job.
Last month, it was announced by Ucas that the number of students enrolling for A-levels was set to increase by 4,000 with a commensurate decline in those enrolled for vocational courses.
In the view of Mary Curnock Cook, the Ucas chief executive: “It’s now a good decision to take A-levels even if you are not an A* student”.
She justified her view by arguing that: “… choosing A-levels means teenagers can keep their options open without having to fix a career path so early in life, whereas those choosing vocational qualifications such as sports science or health and social care (she was careful in the examples she chose!) are more likely to go into those fields, closing their options rather early in life.”
She concluded her argument by stating that: “sticking to academic qualifications doesn’t close any doors, regardless of whether you want to apply for a top apprenticeship or a top university.”
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The number of 19-year-olds gaining level three through A-levels has fallen for the first time in seven years, while the figures for those achieving the same standard through vocational routes continues to rise.
The proportion for A-levels fell by 0.3 per cent last year — the first drop since 2008, according to statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE) for level 2 and 3 attainment by age 19 in 2015.
In contrast, the figures for those gaining level three through vocational qualifications by age 19 rose by 0.8 per cent in 2015, to 18.4 per cent.
This represents an increase of over 15 per cent since 2004.