University degrees are evolving and are beginning to equip young people with the skills they need for the workplace.
Higher education these days goes hand in hand with the demands of businesses of all sizes, and qualifications are increasingly aligned with industry needs.
The introduction of degree apprenticeships in the past couple of years aims to go even further in bridging that gap between what employers want and what education institutions offer.
And with rising university fees, it’s an option that is proving to be popular with young people..
Designed by employers in partnership with universities and professional bodies, Degree Apprenticeships deliver higher 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.
Liverpool John Moores University will be opening its doors to an extra 200 new employer-supported Degree Apprentices in September 2017, after being only one of 18 universities to secure part of a multimillion pound Government fund.
LJMU will expand the range of professionally-accredited qualifications currently on offer to develop qualifications in policing, control engineering, construction, civil engineering, and electrical and electronic engineering.
LJMU’s bid was chosen from 70 applicant universities by the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) on behalf of the Department of Education.
Professor Andy Ross, from the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, said: “Degree Apprenticeships are valuable both for student and employer in offering a direct route to a highly-skilled job based on academic and vocational foundations.
“This funding will strengthen our partnerships with businesses in the Liverpool region and help develop capacity and capability in Liverpool’s digital, engineering and construction workforce.”
Manchester Metropolitan University launched its Degree Apprenticeship programme in 2015.
Today MMU has 17 per cent of the entire population of degree apprentices in the country – that’s over 300 degree apprentices with plans to increase that number to 3,000 in the next five years.
It offers a number of programmes in chemistry, digital & technology, management, marketing and law.
MMU currently works with 70 employers ranging from BMW, AstraZenec, Barclays, United Utilities, Pizza Hut to GlazoSmithKline.
Vice Chancellor Professor Malcolm Press said: “Universities are operating in an very competitive environment at the moment. There more competition in the UK and internationally.
“So it’s important that we can a deliver quality across everything and that includes delivering better outcomes for students as a consequence.
“One example is around degree apprenticeships.
“The programmes have been created with businesses in mind. The students get a day a week teaching, a salary and they form networks with other students in related businesses, and that creates a network for them.
“Our aim is to grow this number to 3,000 in the next five years and to replace some of our standard undergraduate courses with these degree apprenticeship courses.”
He continues: “We’re really focused on delivering our learning and teaching in a way that is fit for the 21st Century.
“We recently held an event with Lloyds Banking Group and 400 school children from 19 schools across the region to inspire them to follow careers in digital.
“We held a range of talks from technology employers including Facebook, BBC, IBM, and the idea was to increase diversity in tech subjects such as getting more younger women to consider a career in STEM subjects,
“The day ended with some of degree apprenticeship students from Lloyds who shared their own personal journeys and talking about what they gained from being here.
“If there is a message for young people, it’s that most students go to university to study a subject because they’re interested in that subject and they come out thinking that they need to be specialists in that subject.
“Employers often say that they want people who have generalist skills as well, and so we work very hard to embed generalist and lifelong skills in our students they’re what we call ‘versatilists’ by the time they graduate.”
Neighbouring Salford University also offers a range of Degree Apprenticeships including those who want to become a chartered surveyor, junior management consultant, and chartered manager.
It also offers a range of higher education apprenticeships.
Last year Salford University announced it has been awarded £150,000 to train higher-level apprentices in partnership with industry.
The money will be used to create a package of new Degree Apprenticeships over the coming years, allowing students to earn while they learn in roles including construction, management and engineering.
The new courses will begin running from September 2017 and be tailored to key industry skills gaps in a bid to boost the number of qualified employees entering the workforce in important sectors.
Initially 50 apprentices will have the chance to take up places with further growth places thereafter.
Professor Richard Stephenson, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Salford said at the time: “The funding will enable the University to build on our existing offers in Chartered Surveying and Broadcast Engineering and responds very clearly to industry need in line with our Industry Collaboration Zones strategy.”