Business leaders tell Government that degree apprenticeships '˜can boost the North's economy'

Boosting degree apprenticeships could hand a massive boost to the economy of Northern England, business leaders will today recommend.

Teesside University has been awarded £250,000 to help fund degree apprenticeships in STEM subjects in the Tees Valley.

Sheffield Hallam University, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) today issue a series of recommendations to the Anne Milton, minister apprenticeships and skills about how giving greater prominence to degree apprenticeships can closing the skills gap and improving economic growth - particularly in the north of England.

Degree apprenticeships combine full-time paid work and part-time university study to offer new and existing employees the opportunity to gain a full bachelors or masters’ degree while undertaking practical, on-the-job training needed to become occupationally competent.

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The recommendations coincide with the Degree Apprenticeship National Conference today at Sheffield Hallam University, held in partnership with UVAC.

The letter makes five key recommendations:

- Provide better information on how to progress to a degree apprenticeship for schools, school leavers and families.

- Make the system easier for employers to determine the right degree apprenticeship for their business.

- Streamline procedures for creating degree apprenticeships.

- Provide stable funding which recognises that degree apprenticeships involve significant costs for universities and employers.

- Preserve the recognised transferable value of degree attainment in degree apprenticeships - rather than use of degree ‘level’ apprenticeships.

The letter also recommends the creation of a coherent and substantial positive publicity campaign to raise awareness and profile of the benefits of degree apprenticeships, aimed at both learners and employers.

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “As one of the leading providers of degree apprenticeships, we have seen interest and applications rise significantly over the last two years - but we need to do more to support this alternative route into education and work.

“The funding system needs to be more streamlined in supporting pathways into higher level skills and encouraging more long-lasting collaborations between higher and further education to facilitate this.

“An education system fit for the twenty-first century - which focuses on the long-term skills needs of the economy - must ensure the acquisition of both academic and technical skills, and to allow for their interdependence.”

Henri Murison, director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “As we end the unhelpful divide between academic and work-based learning, and the difference in esteem between them both, the government and their relevant sounding and standards bodies need to avoid stifling the growth of degree apprenticeships.

“Global, national and great northern led businesses need to drive our ambition by spending more apprenticeship levy here in the North to close the skills gap.

“The current slow and cumbersome approval process and often inadequate funding per degree apprentice are a real threat and businesses will not accept this great opportunity for young people, those wanting to retrain for the next industrial revolution and their businesses, being lost.”

Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive of UVAC, said: “Employers have and are developing degree apprenticeships in occupations needed to deliver high quality public services, including nursing, policing and social work.

“In the private sector degree apprenticeships have and are being developed for a range of occupations including digital, engineering and construction vital to the Northern Powerhouse.”