Following its publication of the landmark report calling for changes to degree apprenticeships to deliver a new breed of ‘supergrads’ the EPC has now published all recommendations, including a full set of responses from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).
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The report, Experience enhanced, is the outcome of a two-year project to assess policy and practice around degree apprenticeships and it highlights nearly 50 recommendations for the Government, for employers and for other organisations such as the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Office for Students.
The EPC criticises the Government for creating a system where degree apprenticeships are intended to be ‘employer-led’ but can become ‘employer-dominated’, failing to focus on apprentices’ wider learning and long-term goals.
Among the key recommendations is a call for the Government to relax the rules around the Apprenticeship Levy to allow some of an estimated £1.28 billion of unspent funds* to be used to develop high-quality apprenticeships, to promote them and to improve careers advice.
The report also takes aim at the messaging around degree apprenticeships. The complexity of the system is described as “a barrier” to potential apprentices, to parents and to employers (particularly smaller firms). The branding of degree apprenticeships also runs the risk of presenting them as something less than traditional degrees, rather than as an enhanced experience.
The EPC’s other recommendations span four areas: ensuring the best possible learning experience and outcomes for apprentices; the need for closer collaboration between employers and learning providers like universities; the importance of building recognition as a professional engineer into the pathways of apprenticeships; and the financial sustainability of degree apprenticeships.
Professor Mike Sutcliffe, chair of the EPC’s degree apprenticeships working group that authored the report, commented:
“The UK has a desperate shortage of engineering skills. Degree apprenticeships could be a game changer in meeting that need and encouraging people from many new and diverse backgrounds into the sector. However, that will only happen if we get them right.
“Degree apprenticeships are still in their infancy, which is why the EPC feels it’s important to highlight some inconvenient truths while it’s still relatively easy for everyone to get behind a programme of helping them realise the potential.”
Professor Jonathan Seville, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Education & Skills Committee, welcomed the report:
“At the Royal Academy we embrace the EPC’s positive approach in striving to ensure the success of engineering degree apprenticeships, which offer an exciting new route into a career in engineering. Their success is important for the nation, for employers, for the engineering sector and, most of all, for learners themselves. The EPC’s reflections and recommendations provide an important input for Government and a stimulus to all stakeholders, including the Academy, to continue to participate in the discussion.”