A quick guide to degree apprenticeships for providers

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By Anne Kiem, Chief Executive, Chartered ABS; Jonathan Lawson, Apprenticeship Development Lead, Manchester Metropolitan University; and Elizabeth Gorb, Director of Apprenticeships, Manchester Metropolitan University

Why should HEIs consider offering degree apprenticeships?

There are essentially four reasons. One, they can help with widening participation. Two, it is responding to employer demand – even if that demand is simply driven by the wanting to make use of their levy. Three, it offers the opportunity to forge new partnerships with businesses and organisations and four, it provides a platform to innovate curricula in partnership with local businesses.

It is well documented that social mobility and employment outcomes are dramatically improved when there is an extended internship element to the studying. It therefore follows that apprenticeships, where the employment element is the driving force, will result in better outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also reduces the financial concerns many experience when studying full-time.

Employers have long expressed concern about the lack of skills of graduates. Apprenticeship standards have been devised by employers, to meet their needs. In that way, what employers get from apprentices should be closer to what they want. More importantly, employers with wage costs over £3m per annum have to pay a levy of 0.5% of their wage bill towards apprenticeships which can only be recovered by employing apprentices. Government rules now stipulate that bidders for central government contracts worth more than £10 million and lasting over 12 months must demonstrate their commitment to apprentices. So, there is significant incentive for companies to make use of the levy they pay. Public sector bodies with 250 or more staff in England have an additional target to employ an average of at least 2.3% of their staff as new apprentice starts.

Business schools could take advantage of first mover status

Despite this desire to make use of the levy, the complaint from many businesses is that there aren’t apprenticeships available that are suitable for the skills they need. But all companies need managers, so it is not surprising that the Chartered Manager degree apprenticeship is doing well, and will likely continue to do so.

How does the funding work?

To be able to offer degree apprenticeships the institution must be registered with and approved by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, ESFA. This will need to be renewed every 12 months.

Read the Register of apprenticeship training providers: application instructions and the Apprenticeships technical funding guide for starts from May 2017

The proposal was that SMEs could access the fund to take on apprentices, having to pay 10% of the training cost, with the fund paying the remaining 90% directly to the training provider. However, in April, the Government put a pause on the procurement of apprentices for non-levy companies, so at the moment there is no route for new providers to offer apprenticeships to SMEs by making use of the levy.

The Levy funds have already started to be collected and they will remain in individual company accounts for two years. If the money is not spent within this rolling 24-month period it will be lost to the company.

Funds will be transferred monthly from the employer’s fund, as well as any additional from the employer, to the training provider. However, 20% of the total will be held back until completion of the apprenticeship. Schools need to take note of this.

End point assessments (EPAs)

There must be an assessment at the end of the apprenticeship to determine if the student has passed the apprenticeships. It has been agreed that for degree apprenticeships it is possible to have an integrated model, where the EPA is part of the degree assessment, or a non-integrated model. For non-integrated models, there will need to be an independent assessor who judges if the individual has passed their apprenticeship.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/608650/IfA_Operational_Plan_Response_to_Consultation.pdf

The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship - Level 6 uses a non-integrated model and there are currently three registered EPAs, but we expect more to come on board. It is recommended that you shop around to secure the best price for EPAs. The list can be found on the Government’s website, which also includes the list of all apprenticeships.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/using-the-register-of-apprentice-assessment-organisations

Quality assurance

It has now been agreed that the QAA will quality assure degree level apprenticeships, and that the QAA will co-operate with Ofqual for Level 4 and 5 apprenticeships, where they are standalone qualifications.

HEFCE support

HEFCE has set aside £8.5m in a Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund (DADF) to support new degree apprenticeships by:

  • creating new higher-quality apprenticeships
  • establishing capacity and expertise to deliver them
  • making broader educational opportunities available to learners.

http://www.hefce.ac.uk/skills/apprentice/dadf/

The Institute for Apprenticeships

Was set up by the Government with the purpose of:

  • developing and maintaining quality criteria for the approval of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans
  • supporting the development of standards and assessment plans by employer groups, reviewing and approving them
  • publishing approved standards and assessment plans
  • advising on the maximum amount of government funding that can be drawn down by employers for individual apprenticeship standards
  • quality assuring the delivery of apprentice end-point assessments, where employer groups have been unable to propose other arrangements
  • ensuring that all end-point assessments are quality assured

The Institute formerly came in to being on 1 April, at the time as the levy was introduced. The Chief Executive, Peter Lauener, was appointed in a shadow role in September and has already announced that he will be leaving the IfA. There is concern at the lack of HE experience amongst the staff at the IfA and we have been assured that this will be tackled.

Discussion

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