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15 March, 2018 - 22:12 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge University praised for degree apprenticeship initiative

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, has called for UK universities to follow the recent example of Cambridge University and offer degree apprenticeships.

There are currently just 11,600 degree apprenticeships and Halfon hopes that in the future “half of all students will be studying them.”

He said: “The current obsession with full academic degrees in this country must end. There are just not the jobs available for the graduates and the return on investment for some of these students is paltry. Instead, we should rebalance higher education and redirect some of the public funding universities receive to those courses with a technical focus.

“The Government has announced a review of university funding and should take the opportunity to do all it can to incentivise more skills-based courses and technical offerings.

“No longer should there be a divide between technical and academic education and there must be closer links between further and higher education. They should be seen as intertwined – two parts of the same system of self-improvement and both equally well supported.

“Degree apprenticeships are a remarkable example of a vehicle that blends the two together and could be the crown jewel in a revamped technical offering.

“Students earn as they learn, they do not incur mountains of debt, and they get good quality jobs at the end.

“They are not only offering students value for money but also the taxpayer and are helping us meet the country’s skills gap and providing a ladder of opportunity for our most disadvantaged young people to thrive in their future careers.

Halfon felt that with 2018 being the ‘Year of Engineering’ and also National Apprenticeship Week earlier this month, it was an ideal time to highlight the importance of apprenticeships and raise the prestige of skills and training.

He said: “For too long, vocational education has been looked down on and seen as an undesirable educational route for our young people, who are instead encouraged to embark on a full university degree. At the same time however, we face a real and growing skills crisis in our country.

“More than a third of workers in England do not hold suitable qualifications for the jobs they do and around nine million working aged adults in England have low basic skills.

“Meanwhile, an enormous wave of lost opportunity is about to come crashing down on the next generation of employees, with a third of England’s 16-19-year olds having low basic skills.

“28 per cent of jobs taken by 16-24-year olds could be at risk of automation by the 2030s and only around 5 per cent of young people are working in STEM, the area most resistant to the risk.

“This lack of skills in our society affects us all, but it is the most disadvantaged who pay the highest price by slipping in to a concoction of wage stagnation, fading hope and inertia.

“If this is to change, we must raise the esteem vocational and skills training is held in and apprenticeships have a major role to play.”

  • 72 per cent of manufacturers say raising awareness of apprenticeships will get more young people into engineering
  • 79 per cent of manufacturers were committed to recruiting engineering apprentices in 2016 - 45 per cent were committed to recruiting apprentices in other parts of the business
  • In 2016/17 there were 74,010 manufacturing and engineering apprenticeship starts, representing 15 per cent of all apprenticeship starts for the year
  • Only 7 per cent of students at state-funded mainstream schools and colleges went on to an apprenticeship after key stage 5 compared to 51 per cent that went on to a UK higher education institution
  • Just 7 per cent of engineering apprenticeships achieved last year were undertaken by women 
  • 26 per cent of manufacturers want more information on finding and recruiting apprentices to help them with the Apprenticeship Levy of manufacturers want more information on finding and recruiting apprentices to help them with the Apprenticeship Levy
  • A third (33 per cent) of manufacturers currently support employees to undertake higher apprenticeships and a quarter (24 per cent) currently don’t but would like to\
  • • PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Robert Halfon MP. Image courtesy – Chris McAndrew

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