University focuses on apprenticeships as government steps up initiative

University focuses on apprenticeships as government steps up initiative

Tue, 07/02/2017 - 15:01

Employee Anne-Marie

A NEW government initiative is pledging to bring together the best of vocational training and higher education to help apprentices combine University study with on-the-job training.

The degree apprenticeships scheme is being backed by the University of Chichester who are offering day release degrees for software engineers and chartered managers.

The first cohort of apprentices began their study in September 2016 and both apprentices and employers are already seeing the benefits of this way of training and developing staff. Companies that have employed one or more apprentices are finding that is it a great way to attract talent, shape them to the needs of their business and to make sure that their skills are current and relevant.

Red River Software MD Simon Pringle explained: “We were suffering from the usual skills shortage and wanted to be able to train people our own way. Via this route we get to do that and the apprentices quickly become very talented. For us there hasn’t been a time when they haven’t been working on a commercial project, which is very beneficial to the company. In the digital sector this is the most positive step towards addressing the skills shortage in my memory.”

'Bringing new dynamics to established groups'

Companies also find they benefit from new ideas that apprentices are bringing back as well as the latest thinking from their degree course. David Gayler, HR Manager at Sussex Healthcare said: “We are enjoying having someone who asks the 'why do we do it that way?' question, who compares theory with practice and who is bringing a new dynamic to an established group.”

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Stephani, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice at Sussex Healthcare agrees: “My degree allows me to understand and then suggest improvements to the systems currently in use and how they are maintained, and be able to present reasoning behind the choices with clarity and confidence.”

Meanwhile, apprentices are benefitting from gaining a degree while acquiring valuable work experience, earning a salary and avoiding paying any fees - but the apprentices all have different reasons for choosing the course. Alexander Dagg of SSE chose the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprenticeship because of the “ability to develop his career as well as his academic qualifications”.

James Seden-Smith of Red River Software was "dead set" on going to University but when he heard about the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship he applied for that alongside full time courses. As he went to open days and interviews he found that the recurring advice was "Do a year in industry - it’s what employees look for". This changed his focus and he decided that a degree apprenticeship was the way forward as it offered “four years in industry, alongside a degree, which is an amazing opportunity and would give me a huge advantage against my peers when applying for future jobs.”

Government apprenticeship initiative

Experience the key in contemporary job market

Baramee Thummatewin, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice at SSE, was also looking forward to studying in higher education but the cost was too high. He also realised that in today’s tough job market, experience is the key.

“Many industries look for people with experience; an invaluable asset that can only be achieved by working in the industry. I decided that the best choice for getting experience and still being able to study in higher education is a Degree Apprenticeship. They provide the best of both worlds.”

Conversely, the idea of doing a full time degree did not appeal to Dominik Kwiatek, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice at NLS, as he felt they are usually tailored towards theory based subjects. “I always thought an apprenticeship would be more appropriate as it makes it a lot easier for me to learn due to the practical nature of it.”

And employers see all these benefits too. Bob Pottle, Head of IT Delivery Enterprise at SSE, added: “They will need to work hard over the four years but at the end of it they will have invaluable experience, a degree, and a chance to actively contribute to our business. This is combining the best of both worlds to gain valuable work experience, earn a competitive salary and gain a degree with no tuition fees.”

Combining vocational training and higher education

Choosing a degree apprenticeship is providing a great choice, with the apprentices learning new skills and competencies such as improved confidence in the work place. “The knowledge I will learn at University will help me be more confident when it comes to facing certain tasks” said Jack Kelly, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice at SSE, who feels that now he will “be able to lead meetings about technical aspects of projects and confidently know how to fix issues with ease”.

Colleague Annabella Ladley, who is on the same course, thinks that “the course will give me more advanced technical skills as well as teaching us about the working environment and how technology is used within a business. This will all help me in my role at SSE. I have already been able to apply some of the knowledge I learned at university to my current role at work.” And Dominik Kwiatek agrees that the course “will definitely help me with understanding client needs and how the company works a lot more.”

Companies that employ an apprentice gain many advantages for their business but also provide great opportunities for their apprentices. At communications agency NLS they are able to provide real working experience in a dynamic agency whilst benefitting from having an employee who is learning outside of the office both in the form of the course itself and the time they spend with others gaining experience in similar roles.

Lead Developer, Jamie Scott, says “Dom’s knowledge of all things technical outweighs the majority of CVs we’ve had across our desks, both that knowledge and his commitment to learning makes for a keen problem solver that continues to grow week on week.”

Benefitting from a degree alongside work experience

Apprentices on the scheme enjoy a balance of campus and work life. Their experiences at the University are proving positive with Jake Vernon, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice at SSE, who “really enjoying the content of what is being taught in our lectures as well as being able to interact with other students from other companies.

This provides an insight of what they are doing in their jobs and the skills of working with a different group of people.” Adam Sandle, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice from Red River Software, is not missing out on campus life either. “Although we're only on campus one day a week, we are still have access to all the support and social facilities the full time students do. All the resources are available online so not being near the campus isn’t an issue at all.”

'Dealing with the team at Chichester like a breath of fresh air'

Businesses agree that the working with the University is a positive experience. “Dealing with the team at Chichester really is like a breath of fresh air! Everyone is approachable and easy to contact - I couldn't praise them more highly” said David Gayler, HR Manager at Sussex Healthcare, whilst Lead Developer at NLS, Jamie Scott, said “Everyone we’ve dealt with at the University has been extremely helpful in making sure that the scheme was right for us, finding the perfect candidate and continuing to support us and answer any questions we have had during the programme.”

Anna-MarieDeveloped in collaboration with the Tech Partnership and IT employers, the BSc (Hons) Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree apprentice develops practical IT skills, project management, interpersonal, and business skills. The BA (Hons) Chartered Managers Degree Apprenticeship has been developed in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute and provides a firm grounding in the principles of management, builds a broad set of management and decision making skills, and develops self-aware and reflective managers.

Both courses are taught across three 10-week terms a year over 4 years and feature a common core with occupational pathway options that are flexible to the needs of the employer and the degree apprentice.

Find out more

Find out about the University of Chichester’s degree apprenticeships at www.chi.ac.uk/apprentice. As Government standards are developed and the demand increases, there is the potential for more courses to be added.  Interested businesses should get in touch at business@chi.ac.uk.