‘Now is the time to back Degree Apprenticeships’

It’s the 15th annual National Apprenticeship Week and Natasha Traynor, Director for Apprenticeships at QA shares her thoughts on why degree apprenticeships hold the answer to closing the skills gap and improving social mobility.

With the Government reaffirming its commitment to levelling up last week, and businesses across the UK pivoting their hiring strategies to access much-needed digital skills, it’s clear we need solutions to tackle these issues head on.

Apprenticeships are clearly one of these. However, current narratives present the choice for school leavers between an apprenticeship and a university degree as a totally binary one. However, that doesn’t need to be the case.

Degree Apprenticeships in many ways represent the best of both worlds, holding great potential for social mobility, addressing the digital skills gap, and aiding post-pandemic economic recovery. They allow apprentices to learn (and earn) on the job, whilst ultimately qualifying for a degree from an established university without racking up the debts that deter many people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, despite repeated commitments from the Government over the last decade, uptake has stagnated, and the potential is being missed. Between 2018 and 2020, Degree Apprenticeship starts only increased by 3.2%. And, worryingly for levelling up and social mobility, opportunities are more likely to go to those in affluent areas or those over 25. And, as research from QA has revealed, 60% of 16–24-year-olds believe that graduating from university is the only option to get a job in technology.

If we are to level up across the UK and finally close the digital skills gap, now is the time to back Degree Apprenticeships as a viable alternative to solving these very real national challenges. For young people, this will enable more informed choices at a critical time in their professional development.