Universities handed £500k boost to provide apprenticeships to help plug skills gaps

Birmingham City University and the University of Wolverhampton have been handed a £500,000 boost to train apprentices in key industries and help tackle some of the region’s biggest skills gaps.

The government’s Department for Education has announced the funding through its Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE), which will be used to give students real-world training and experience as well as being equipped with degrees at the end of their course.

The money will be used to create a package of new Degree Apprenticeships over the coming years, allowing Birmingham City University students to earn and learn in roles including construction, management, manufacturing, law and radiography. The University of Wolverhampton will be developing a range of new apprenticeship degrees in a range of subjects to support local and regional skills needs including law, aerospace, engineering, digital technology, leadership and management, broadcast production and nursing. Some of this work, including progression pathways, will be delivered in partnership with local further education colleges

The new courses will support the aims of the West Midlands Combined Universities partnership, which sees Birmingham City University work alongside Coventry University and the University of Wolverhampton in a bid to tackle the region’s skills shortages, create jobs and support economic growth.

Courses will begin running from 2017 and have been tailored to meet the needs of the region by focussing on key industry skills gaps in a bid to boost the number of qualified employees entering the workforce in important sectors.

Hundreds of students will have the chance to take up places on the apprenticeships with the possibility for further places to be made available in the future.

The Universities beat off competition from nearly 70 other institutions to emerge as one of 18 successful bidders to HEFCE and receive a share of the £1 million pot made available to Higher Education institutions.

Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said: “Apprenticeships work, that’s why we’ve launched degree apprenticeships that give people a real chance to earn while you learn putting you on the fast-track to a top career.

“This multi-million pound fund will allow universities and colleges to work with top employers to design high quality degree apprenticeships that give people a ladder of opportunity, more choice and help shape Britain to become an apprentice nation.”

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “We are delighted to have received this funding which will allow us to give even more students the chance to learn a trade through real-world experience, whilst also leaving the University with a degree.

“Our role is to make sure students leave us with a good education and qualifications but it is equally important that they are prepared for the world of work, which is why Higher Level Apprenticeships can be so important.

“Tailoring our courses and training to fit the needs of industries and organisations across the West Midlands also gives us the perfect opportunity to address the skills gaps we have here and play a crucial role in supporting economic growth.”

Jackie Dunne, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Access and Lifelong Learning at the University of Wolverhampton, said:  “We are delighted to have secured additional funding to accelerate the growth of degree apprenticeships.

“We have successfully delivered a small pilot for a Higher Apprenticeship in Construction Management in support of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership’s strategic aims.  We have also invested in a new Apprenticeship Hub designed to provide a focal point for the University and our employer and college partners to work together in providing a new apprenticeship offer across the areas in which we operate.”

The government has earmarked Higher Level Apprenticeships as a key method of ensuring the needs of the economy are met, through raising the number of people given the opportunity to gain industry skills and university standard qualifications.

Courses will last for a minimum of three years and include theory as well as on-the-job training.

The successful bid was put together by the University’s Apprenticeships team following research into where key skills gaps could be filled in the West Midlands.

Among the key sectors identified were advanced manufacturing, engineering, public sector and health.

Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: “The development of degree apprenticeships will provide more people with the chance to study in higher education and work at the same time, and in doing so to fulfil their educational and career ambitions.

“Employers will be able to use their apprenticeship levy funds to access degree apprenticeships from a range of higher education providers, and the fund will support institutions in preparing for the increased demand that will follow the levy’s introduction from April 2017.”