Since then feedback from both the employers and students involved has been very positive and we are now set to launch two more degree apprenticeships this September, Chartered Surveyor and Chartered Manager.
One of the reasons for this success has been the way Northumbria has worked with businesses to ensure our degree apprenticeship programmes deliver the skills and experience required of potential employees by industry. The creation of our new Chartered Surveyor degree apprenticeship is an excellent example of this partnership work in action.
Headed up by senior lecturer Susan Dawson, our Degree Apprentice Lead for Architecture, Surveying, Engineering and Construction, the standard for the new programme has been written in collaboration with local and national businesses following a number of workshop events. The programme has been shaped around the feedback we have received, with the academic aspect tailored to ensure students develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required by employers.
‘We’ve worked with around 60 businesses,’ says Susan, ‘to design the Chartered Surveyor degree apprenticeship, discussing everything from programme duration and content to possible barriers to engagement. The aim of the degree apprenticeship is to deliver a workforce which is highly employable and fit for the future.
‘By working with employers we can shape our programmes to meet the needs of industry and develop a unique, quality offering that will impact on the future growth of part-time provision.’
As well as working with employers to design the programmes, Susan is also planning to conduct specific research into the impact of degree apprenticeships and the importance of industry collaboration, with funding awarded from the Council of Heads of the Built Environment to examine the impact of degree apprenticeships in built environment education.
One student who is already experiencing the benefit of this collaborative working is Jennifer Gane – one of the 18 students to enrol on the first cohort of our Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship in 2015. Jennifer works as a junior software developer for a Gateshead-based website and software development company while studying with us at Northumbria, and believes the degree apprenticeship qualification provides benefits for both students and employers.
‘For me,’ Jennifer says, ‘degree apprenticeships offer the best of both worlds – you can gain a degree-level qualification while earning money and gaining real-life experience in the industry you are studying.
‘Degree apprenticeships are as academically challenging and rigorous as a traditional degree, perhaps even more so in some ways because you are working at the same time. But the big benefit is that when you graduate you already have a job in your chosen field.’
Jennifer was recently invited to represent Northumbria at a national conference celebrating the success of degree apprenticeships. The event was hosted by the Tech Partnership which, following assessment of Northumbria’s Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship, has accredited our programme with Tech Industry Gold status in recognition of its success in meeting employer-relevant standards.
‘It was great to meet other students taking part in degree apprenticeships and share stories,’ says Jennifer. ‘Our backgrounds are all very different – mine is in Classics but I have always had an interest in computer programming and it actually uses many similar skills. I started looking into training options, and when I found out about degree apprenticeship I thought it was perfect for me.
‘It is a four-year programme and each week I am in work for four days and at university for one.
‘I can bring the skills I learn in the classroom to my place of work and vice versa, giving me a really rounded experience and education. I would definitely recommend this option to anyone considering a degree apprenticeship.’
We believe that degree apprenticeships allow us to offer the same level of education and training as our traditional degree programmes, just through a different route. The links we have established with businesses as a result will be beneficial for all our students and we hope to build on these connections in future.
The feedback from employers has been very positive with many, including Jennifer’s employer, now including degree apprentices as part of their succession planning. John Wiseman, Director of STCS Ltd, told us that:
‘The Degree Apprenticeship scheme at Northumbria University has changed the way we think about finding and developing talent. So far, we have three degree apprentices in the scheme at Northumbria and I have every intention of continuing to employ apprentices for this scheme alongside our more traditional graduate route.’
Last year Northumbria announced that we would be investing £240,000 in expanding our degree apprenticeship programmes, after securing funding of £140,000 from HEFCE. From September this year, we will deliver Chartered Surveyor and Chartered Manager degree apprenticeships, as well as the current Digital and Technology Solutions apprenticeship.
There are also plans to offer degree and higher apprenticeships in Architecture, Construction, Accountancy and Law (Solicitor) and other professional areas in the future, with the aim of providing almost 300 places by 2020.
We are already working with a variety of national employers on our degree apprenticeship programmes, including HM Revenue and Customs and Balfour Beatty, and we are working closely in partnership with other regional and national organisations to expand our offer further.