Over 90 members responded, across a number of sectors but primarily large employers.

Demand is significant, but not yet widespread. More than half of the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ employer respondents (52 per cent) are offering or planning to offer a degree apprenticeship (DA) that is already approved for delivery, with 40per cent of those identifying the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional DA.

The DA ranked second highest, by 29 per cent of respondents, is the Chartered Manager DA. However, when looking at the number of students starting apprenticeships, the position is reversed, with the Chartered Manager DA numbers looking to tip over 1,000 from 2016 to 2019, with the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional DA at over 630.

Current most popular degree apprenticeships

Looking further ahead, slightly more employers (55 per cent) are planning on offering a DA that is in development. We analysed the responses to this question by sector, and the top five, all named by more than 20 per cent of respondents, were:

  • Digital Industries and IT (approximately 700 starting numbers*)
  • Business, Management and Administration (250)
  • Construction (650)
  • Manufacturing and Engineering (200)
  • Financial Services, Banking and Insurance (430).

* These numbers were taken from the mid-point of the ranges on offer.

When considering the planned numbers in DAs in these sectors, it is important to bear in mind that this is a snapshot from November 2016, and that these numbers will continuously change as employers develop their strategies. With that caveat, there is still a clear indication that occupations in the digital and management space are high priorities.

This is to be expected – both of these apprenticeships were launched in 2015, and both would be a good fit for employers looking to upskill existing staff, as well as developing their early talent pipeline.

DAs are core to employers’ talent strategy

As would be expected, more than two-thirds of those offering or planning to offer an existing DA are also planning to offer one that is in development – while there are employers who are taking a more cautious, staged approach, clearly others see DAs as core to their talent strategy and will have multiple programmes. What’s not clear yet is whether employers expect a single provider to be able to satisfy all of their requirements.

There are mixed views on how much of an impact the apprenticeship levy has had on the immediate and planned take-up of apprenticeships – 30 per cent of those that had a strategy for DAs before the levy said that there has been no change in this. But 45 per cent said that their strategy has accelerated, half of those at the expense of their graduate recruitment.

Employers are well versed in identifying skills gaps in their organisations, with many having a three- to five-year strategy in place. From the survey, over 70 per cent are clear or somewhat clear about the levels of skills gap they have, and that DAs are part of addressing that gap.

Going one step further, more than a third responded by saying that these skills gaps can be filled by a DA that isn’t even in development yet. With a collective feeling that DAs are taking too long to be approved, it could be inferred that there will be gaps that remain unaddressed until the pipeline speeds up.

Role of professional bodies

With the option available to transfer 10 per cent of the levy to their supply chain from 2018, it is perhaps encouraging that 35 per cent of employers have already started conversations about this, with another 26 per cent intending to.

And there is more collaboration happening between employers and professional and regulatory bodies (45 per cent of respondents). Professional bodies see their role as contributing to the development of the knowledge, skills and behaviour of the DA standards, through their sector knowledge and education expertise.

When asked how DAs will contribute to growth in their sector, the highest response (35 per cent) was that it will make the sector more attractive – but with employers saying the biggest challenges to the growth of DAs are the reputation (63 per cent) and awareness (60 per cent) of degree apprenticeships, it seems there is much more work to be done to make that a reality.