5,200 degrees of faith in new apprenticeships scheme

The government has shown its faith in new-style degree apprenticeships with £4.5m in new funding

The new-style degree apprenticeships will offer students the opportunity to earn at the same time as acquiring high-level skills.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) confirms that this new funding will facilitate another 5,200 degree apprenticeship places in leading universities and colleges across the country. Offered from 17 September 2017, these will join the 27,000 new degree courses already undertaken in the latest academic year.

What is so different about these new degree course apprenticeships?

Perhaps we should start by explaining exactly what a traditional apprenticeship is. Becoming an apprentice is a long-established and proven way for students to earn while they learn. They would be taken on by a private company in one of many trades and skills, such as plumbers, electricians, mechanics, engineers and draughtsmen.

Aged 16 or over, they would normally spend most of the week on the actual job learning from the experienced tradespeople around them and one or more days a week in the classroom gaining the technical skills they would need to complete their training.

These new degree apprenticeships are created for those aged 18 or over, normally after completing their A-levels. Designed by universities, numerous professional bodies and major employers such as BAE and the Police Service, these courses will offer a high-tech alternative to the usual ‘college degree first and then going into a chosen industry’ route. As with a traditional apprenticeship, students will spend part of their time at university and the rest with their employer.

Such major centres of learning as Birmingham City University, Liverpool John Moores University and The Open University are already signed up for this ground-breaking project.

How will this massive project be funded?

The money will come from the industry itself, with the launch of a new apprenticeship levy to be introduced in April this coming year. Set at a rate of 5% rate of their annual payroll, it will be collected through PAYE. This applies to all UK employers but will only be levied on those with a turnover of £3m plus; in addition, there will be a universal allowance of £15,000 that can be offset against the levy.

Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of HEFCE, is confident that the scheme will enable many more highly-motivated young people to study and earn at the same time, providing Britain with a highly-skilled workforce.

With skills and apprenticeships within his purview, Education Minister Robert Halfon is also firmly behind the project, praising the opportunities it will give the next generation and saying that it will mould Britain into an apprentice nation.

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