Degree apprenticeships key to improving social mobility in the north

Degree apprenticeships are key to improving social mobility according to employers, education experts and academics who attended a national conference hosted at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Degree Apprenticeship National Conference: Delivering Quality and Social Mobility,  a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University, the University Vocational Awards Council, and Emerald publishing examined the progress on degree apprenticeships, and explored how increased government funding is vital in helping grow the economy and improving social mobility – particularly in the north of England.

The conference coincided with a letter sent to the Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, from Sheffield Hallam University, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the University of Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) calling for more government support for degree apprenticeships.

The letter sets out five recommendations, which were outlined at the conference, to boost and give greater prominence to degree apprenticeships including better access to information, simplification of process, streamlined procedures, stable funding, and preserving the transferable value of the degree qualification.

Degree apprenticeships combine full-time paid work and part-time university study, to offer new and existing employees the opportunity to gain a full Bachelors or Masters’ degree, while undertaking practical, on-the-job training needed to become occupationally competent. The courses are funded using the apprenticeship levy businesses pay to the government and allow employers to recruit new staff and develop existing employees.

Sheffield Hallam has established itself as one of the leading providers of Higher and Degree apprenticeships in the country, with a rapid expansion in provision and a new Centre of Excellence for Degree Apprenticeships set to open this autumn. The University offers a wide range of degree apprenticeships, including programmes in construction, digital and IT, engineering, finance, food technology, health and social care, and hospitality management.

Sam Moorwood, head of employer solutions at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We were delighted to host this national conference which allowed delegates to discuss the changing landscape of apprenticeships in higher education. In recent years, we have started to offer a range of degree and higher level apprenticeship courses which allow businesses to address current UK skills shortages and access funding. For students, they offer an alternative career path and a chance to access higher education paid for by their employer and government funding.”

Keynote speakers and panel members at the event included Dame Fiona Kendrick, deputy chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and chair of Nestlé UK and Ireland; Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor; Anna Bird, head of policy, early years and post-16 education at the Social Mobility Commission; and Nicola Turner MBE, head of skills at the Office for Students