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A revolution on the south coast - University opens to degree apprentices

There is a revolution occurring at the University of Chichester intending to change the way students learn in a bid to tackle the shortage of skilled workers across the UK.



The University of Chichester is blazing a trail for degree apprenticeships in the UK – with over 100 students across it ten programmes, it is developing a new workforce capable of hitting the ground running when they graduate.

All programmes, available to existing employees or new apprentice recruits, allow students to combine study for an under-or postgraduate degree with a full time job To mark national apprenticeship week, it is highlighting some of the trailblazers from its apprenticeship programmes, who are witnessing first-hand the benefits of a degree apprenticeship and the impact on their careers. Here are just some of their stories:


Degree apprentice George Alston - from Pinks Vintage ice cream

Award-winning businesswoman and ice cream maker Georgia Alston

Artisan ice cream maker Georgia Alston is into her second year of the Chartered Manager degree apprenticeship at the University. She said the programme has already proven invaluable to the Bognor Regis business, Pinks Ice Cream, which has experienced rapid growth in the last year. “I try to bring everything I learn in class into practice,” she said. “Last week we were studying project management and I literally began implementing what I learnt the next day.”

Georgia was recently awarded the famed Guido Morelli ‘rising star’ accolade thanks to her swift rise in the industry – and in doing so become its first female recipient. “It feels incredible to receive the award,” she said, “particularly as the ice cream business is quite a male-dominated sector. I’m hoping to build on this success with the knowledge learnt on my degree to launch Pinks Ice Cream across the UK – so keep an eye out for us.”


Simon Pringle

Partnership is key for Red River

For Red River, a significant player in business and software systems based in Horsham, the University partnership is helping to build a future. Red River has taken on a number of degree apprenticeships as a way to develop a talent pipeline, shape employees to the needs of the business, and to make sure that their skills are current and relevant.

CEO Simon Pringle: “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 that I can recall.”


Conor Stevens

New opportunities for student Connor Stevens

The creation of degree apprenticeships has allowed the University of Chichester to broaden its appeal to an even wider group of students. This includes Conor Stevens from the Littlehampton-based Inpress Plastics, a product design, tooling, and production firm, which has partnered with the University to offer him a place on the Chartered Manager degree apprenticeship.

Conor said: “For people my age in my area there aren’t many opportunities like this. For one to be offered to me by a company so close, to be doing so well that Inpress Plastic is, while paired up with a great university like Chichester, is really good for me and I’m enjoying my experience.”

His manager, Inpress Plastics CEO Henry Powell, said of Conor: “If we can take local students, children who have grown up in the area, and education then in science, business, and engineering, before having them back in the community, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”


Dr Hashim Bhabha, Engineering at the University of Chichester

Apprenticeships aren't just for school-leavers

University of Chichester lecturer Dr Hashim Bhabha, a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering based at the Tech Park, completed his PhD four years ago but wanted to return to university to develop his managerial competencies for future career opportunities. Part of the Engineering and Design department, he is undertaking the Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship which incorporates the University’s MBA.

“It can be challenging but it’s not overwhelming,” Hashim said. “Working while doing the apprenticeship actually helps to embed the learning because you do as you learn. My coursework aligns with my day-to-day activities – my first project documents positive workplace change, and I’m planning the future of the University’s Engineering and Design department from staffing to what’s required for students to learn.”

For Nicky King, a part-time accounting technician at the University of Chichester's finance department, undertaking a degree apprenticeship was an opportunity to become the first in her family to go to university. Having worked at the University for more than 18 years, she enrolled onto the four-year Chartered Manager programme to get her first higher education qualification.

“I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Nicky. “I’ve got two daughters at school and I wanted to show them the value of getting a university degree. We’ve all been doing our homework together each night. The apprenticeship works for me because you don’t have to be working full-time – just a minimum of 30 working hours – and all study time is taken out of the working week. It means you don’t have to work 37 hours and then add study time and homework on top. It really makes a difference.”


Gillian Keegan MP

Backing from Chichester MP Gillian Keegan

The University’s degree apprenticeship programme has the backing of Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, who was recently appointed as a government apprenticeship ambassador. The former businesswomen is the only degree-level apprentice in the House of Commons having left school at 16 to train at a car factory near Liverpool.

She said: “The degree apprenticeship I did changed my life – it was my social mobility ticket. It gives you the conference, it gives you the ability, to learn and do at the same time and it makes you very valuable to the workplace.

“There has always been this holy grail of trying to close the gap between what you do in the educational institutions and what you need to be effective in business. What the University of Chichester is doing is they are not only trying and close that gap by working with local businesses, they are doing it in the way that anticipates the future needs of businesses.”


Find out more 

Degree apprenticeships at the University of Chichester are open now in Business, Digital, Engineering, Social Work, and Teaching.