Gloucestershire wins funding for brand new degree apprenticeships

Gloucestershire college ... higher degree apprentices

Gloucestershire college ... higher degree apprentices - Credit: Archant

Employers often grumble that graduates take time to train after university. Now the Government has introduced degree apprenticeships, so employers can provide high level training specific to their industry

KSWP Engineers at Brackley factory

KSWP Engineers at Brackley factory - Credit: Archant

Thousands of new degree apprenticeships are being created across the UK through a new multi million pound Government development fund, with students at both Gloucestershire University and Gloucestershire College are set to benefit.

Universities and colleges across England have been awarded a total of £4.5 million to develop new degree apprenticeships for students starting in September 2017 in careers such as nursing to construction, food manufacturing to engineering, thanks to the multi-million pound fund.

Gloucestershire University has announced that it will begin offering nursing and cyber security degrees later this year. However, Gloucestershire College is already delivering 13 degree apprenticeships at its Gloucester Campus, in partnership with the University of the West of England, Weston College, City of Bristol College and Bridgwater College.

Dr John Lanham, Associate Dean at UWE Bristol, said, “UWE is pleased to be working with Gloucestershire College, GE Aviation and other local employers in developing and launching this trailblazer apprenticeship. The partnership builds on a long running collaboration between UWE, the College and GE.

He added: “This is also the University’s second successful trailblazer degree apprenticeship in the region. With City of Bristol College, we also run the FdSc Aerospace Engineering Manufacturing and it was very rewarding to see the first set of Airbus apprentices achieve their degrees in the summer.

“There are many opportunities in engineering as proven by UWE Bristol’s consistently strong graduate employment arising from a number of routes for students from degrees with paid internships to degree apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships are a strategic priority for UWE and align completely with the university’s 2020 strategy, plans and ambitions, and this programme is the first of several UWE will be developing in the coming year.”

Gloucestershire College Apprentice

Gloucestershire College Apprentice - Credit: Archant

College investment

Brian Fowler is head of engineering at Gloucestershire College. He said: “We have invested significantly in our engineering resources over the past 12 months, and are working with some of the best firms across the county (and country) to develop high level technical skills.”

Government Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon added: “This multi-million pound fund will allow universities and colleges to work with top employers to design high quality degree apprenticeships that give people a ladder of opportunity, more choice and help shape Britain to become an apprentice nation.”

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The Government funding has been awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It forms a key part of the drive to strengthen the reputation of on-the-job training by raising standards and creating more high-quality opportunities for young people and adults from all backgrounds.

Higher and degree apprenticeship numbers rise

Provisional figures released last October show an increase in the numbers of people starting higher and degree apprenticeships. These figures show that there were more than 27,000 higher and degree apprenticeships started across the UK in 2015 to 2016 academic year.

Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: “The development of degree apprenticeships will provide more people with the chance to study in higher education and work at the same time, and in doing so to fulfil their educational and career ambitions. Employers will be able to use their apprenticeship levy funds to access degree apprenticeships from a range of higher education providers, and the fund will support institutions in preparing for the increased demand that will follow the levy’s introduction from April 2017.”

Gloucestershire college ... higher degree apprenticeships, circuit board

Gloucestershire college ... higher degree apprenticeships, circuit board - Credit: Archant

Gary Shaw, an apprentice from Gloucester who works for GE Aviation, said: “I chose the engineering higher apprenticeship with GE Aviation after initially hearing about the company during a work experience placement in Abu Dhabi. The company has a great reputation worldwide and the apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity; it focuses on your own personal development and helps you improve your soft skills, as well as learn invaluable skills that are essential in an engineering workplace.”

What are degree apprenticeships?

Designed by employers, universities and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships deliver high-tech and high level skills and offer an alternative to a traditional degree course. Bringing together university study with paid work, degree apprentices spend part of their time at university and part with their employer.

What is so different about these new higher-level apprenticeships?

The government has introduced higher-level apprenticeships before. What’s so different about these?

According to Brian Fowler, head of manufacturing at Gloucestershire College, this time the Government is thinking strategically, much more like the engineers British industry needs.

Gloucestershire College, apprentice

Gloucestershire College, apprentice - Credit: Archant

“Britain needs higher level technical skills to compete globally. In the past, there were indeed higher-level apprenticeship opportunities, but opportunities were patchy.

“The Government has listened to industry, which has been vocal in its demand for apprentices at all levels who are work ready. Engineering graduates are fantastic, but there have been instances of graduates with good degrees but not necessarily the practical, technological skills companies need to apply complicated engineering theories learned in the lecture room to real-life situations. This is particularly important in a world where technology is evolving ever faster. We have to keep up.

“This higher apprentice programme is, for the first time, receiving the same national engineering institute recognition as a traditional graduate programme. We are working with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), but there are other equally important sector organisations supporting the programme. Everything is now linking up together.”

Renishaw’s Pete Leonard agrees. “As an engineer you need a solid theoretical as well as a practical knowledge behind you to be classed as an engineer.”

It seems that school-leavers have not been slow to seize the opportunities. 24 candidates submitted applications for these new, embedded apprenticeships and Renishaw invited in 10 for assessment. “We could only offer apprenticeships to four of them, but we could have taken more, they were all promising students.”

What is the apprenticeship levy and which companies have to pay it?

The apprenticeship levy was introduced by the Government in 2015. It will replace all taxpayer funding of apprenticeships for companies of all sizes. The apprenticeship levy will come into effect in April 2017. The apprenticeship levy applies to employers who have a pay bill, and pays the employers national insurance contribution in a tax year. While the levy applies to all employers, a £15,000 allowance means that only those stand-alone companies with a pay bill above £3 million will actually pay any levy – this is subject to the rules on connected companies and variable pay, (see below). It is possible that employers with an annual pay bill of less than £3 million will in some circumstances pay some levy at some point during the year or that a group of companies which, together, have a pay bill of less than £3 million will also pay the levy. The levy has been set at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill and will be collected by the Government through PAYE.

For apprenticeship frameworks the government currently pays depending on the age of the apprentice, with younger learners having more of the costs covered.

Under the new model there will be no differentiation based on age. Instead, each individual framework pathway will be placed in the nearest funding band based on the current rate of during the government pays providers for training for adult apprentices.

The government has recognised however, that many employers offering STEM apprenticeships pay far above the current public available, and would be particularly disadvantaged because the funding allocations are based on the adult rate. Therefore, the government has introduced STEM uplift.

Companies that are out of scope of the levy will be required to co-invest in apprenticeship training. The current proposal for co-investment is such that non levy-payers will have 90% of their apprenticeship training and assessment funded, with the employer paying 10%. Unlike levy-payers, those companies not paying into the levy will be able to agree a payment schedule with their provider and choose to spread the payments they make over the life time of their apprenticeship.

How apprenticeships will be funded

The government has set out how apprenticeships will be funded as part of the drive to help millions get the skills they need for a successful career and make Britain a country that works for everyone.

The funding policy will underpin the new apprenticeship levy, which will deliver much needed investment in the skills needed across the UK.

Main measures confirmed by the Government include:

• 100% of training costs will be paid by government for employers with fewer than 50 employees who take on apprentices aged 16 to 18 years old. This will also apply to smaller employers who take on 19- to 24-year-olds who were in care or 19- to 24-year-olds with an education and health care plan

• £1,000 each from government to employers and training providers who take on 16- to 18-year-olds and 19- to 24-year-olds who were in care or who have an education and health care plan

• providers that train 16- to 18-year-olds on apprenticeship frameworks will be given an additional cash payment equal to 20% of the funding band maximum in order to help them to adapt to the new, simpler funding model

• longer for employers to spend funds in their digital account, now with 24 months before they expire, an increase from government’s original proposal of just 18 months

• a commitment to introducing the ability for employers to transfer digital funds to other employers in their supply chains, sector or to apprenticeship training agencies in 2018, with a new employer group including the Confederation of British Industry, Federation of Small Businesses, British Chambers of Commerce, Charity Finance Group and EEF - the manufacturers’ organisation - to help government develop this system so that it works for employers

• more funding for STEM apprenticeship frameworks and higher pricing of apprenticeship standards to support improved quality, and providing greater flexibility to train those with prior qualifications. This will support the industrial strategy and provide wider opportunities for more individuals to develop new skills

Apprentice national minimum wage to rise

The Government revealed a 10p increase in the apprentice national minimum wage following the Government’s Autumn Statement. This will see minimum page for apprentices rise from £3.40 to £3.50 per hour from April 2017.

The increase is great than most of the other minimum wage increases, except that for 21-24 year olds, which will also rise by 10p per hour from £6.95 per hour to £7.05. For 18-21 year olds it will rise from £5.55 per hour to £5.60 and for 16-17 year olds from £3.40 t0 £3.50.

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