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The Dawn of Degree Apprenticeships

Aston University is to offer more degree apprenticeships to aspirant young managers


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Responding to the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, Aston University is expanding its provision of professional degree apprenticeships. This and similar initiatives at other universities is a welcome boost for any business that wants to develop its management capability and identify its future leaders.

Introduced to address the UK’s chronic skills shortage and poor productivity, the word ‘apprentice’ in the title Apprenticeship Levy can be misleading, as it rather suggests a young person learning a trade from a skilled tradesman and accepting low wages for the privilege. In fact, the Levy can be used to fund learning and development for employees at all levels in an organization – including managers.

Every UK business with a salary bill over £3 million is now paying 0.5% of its total salary bill into its Apprenticeship Levy account – with a 10% top-up added by the government. Unfortunately, Department for Education statistics revealed that scarcely half of eligible employers have signed up to reclaim funds and many businesses may be writing off the levy as a tax.

A firm believer in the power of high-quality enlightened leadership to drive economic growth, IEDP sees the potential for professional degree apprenticeships funded via the levy to help organizations of all sizes develop their middle-managers and set their future leaders on the right path.

The Government’s Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund (DADF) has shared £9.4 million across UK universities to develop new higher-quality apprenticeships and Aston University has been awarded £250,000 by DADF to support the expansion of its degree apprenticeships provision. Aston has been a pioneer in this area, with the UK's first cohort of degree apprentices graduating from the University this month.

Aston will use the cash to develop a range of courses across business, engineering, health, logistics, and technology subject areas. It will place a particular emphasis on educating SMEs on the value high-quality learning can bring, characterised by the launch of a new training program for SMEs who are interested in taking on an apprentice.

In addition, the funding will help the University in its mission to ensure degree apprenticeships are accessible to people of all backgrounds. The money will go towards raising awareness of degree apprenticeships in hard-to-reach areas and a campaign to persuade universities to use strengths-based assessments when selecting applications, based on its increasing use among employers as a strong indicator of workplace and academic success.

“We see degree apprenticeships as an integral and important part of our degree portfolio and this money will help us significantly expand our range of courses and help educate small businesses on the huge benefits this can bring… Experience is as important as education, and one of our core beliefs is that a degree should enable a student to be workplace-ready.” Professor Helen Higson, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Aston University.

Prospective students and employers can find out more about what Aston has to offer through the website:

For further background read ‘The Apprenticeship Levy and the Future of Corporate Learning in the UK’ in the latest issue of Developing Leaders 

Over 50 years of pioneering commitment to research, teaching and enterprise has made Aston internationally renowned for delivering local and global impact. We have a bold vision for collaboration with our clients, creating and sharing the vital knowledge that helps them tackle their most pressing real-world challenges.

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