Apprenticeships offer A-level students new degree of choice

Students across the West Midlands receive their A-level results this Thursday (August 16).

While many will go to university to study for a degree, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is reminding students there are lots of alternative options available in the region.

For those who don’t fancy doing an academic degree or are keen to get into work, degree apprenticeships offer a degree-level qualification alongside dedicated, hands-on work experience.

Apprenticeships offer A-level students new degree of choice

A group of students studying towards a degree apprenticeship at Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover, one of the largest employers in the West Midlands, offers a wide range of degree apprenticeships, and Aston University was the first university in the UK to offer degree apprenticeship courses.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said students should consider all their options.

He said: “This will be a nerve-wracking week for thousands of students across the West Midlands awaiting their A-level results.

“Many will be focussed on the traditional route – finding a university and studying for a degree.

“But there are alternatives, and the West Midlands has loads of opportunities to find a rewarding career and a robust qualification, even without attending university.

“From training courses to degree apprenticeships, there are plenty of options. We’d encourage students getting A-level results this week to consider all the great choices available to them in the West Midlands.”

Degree apprenticeships are becoming a popular alternative to traditional university degrees for students, and employers are increasingly recruiting degree apprentices to develop and nurture talent in-house.

Jaguar Land Rover, which has facilities across the West Midlands, is the biggest provider of automotive apprenticeships in the UK – it currently employs more than 1,100 apprentices, more than the combined apprenticeships of other UK automotive manufacturers put together. In 2017, a third of all apprentices who joined Jaguar Land Rover were women.

The company offers a number of courses, including Higher Apprenticeships (equivalent to a post A-level HNC or HND qualification) and degree apprenticeships, which cover a huge range of automotive disciplines, from powertrain engineering and engine operations to chassis work, design and advanced manufacturing.

By September this year, 60 per cent of Jaguar Land Rover’s apprentices will be on degree-level programmes, representing a £58 million investment in their training.

José Lopes, head of technical excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Jaguar Land Rover’s degree apprenticeship programme is for people with a passion for learning, who are determined to succeed.

“A degree apprenticeship leads to careers across the business in engineering, purchasing, manufacturing and finance, and with continuous professional development will lead to a degree with the University of Warwick.

“With a highly competitive salary and great locations, we expect to attract ambitious, imaginative and hardworking individuals, who make the most of the hands-on experience gained.”

And it’s not just employers in the West Midlands who appreciate the benefits of degree apprenticeships.

Professor Helen Higson, provost and deputy vice-chancellor of Aston University, said:

“Apprenticeships are often wrongly viewed as second-class to a traditional degree. The reality is, our degree apprentices have proved to be some of our most effective employees, with many now working for companies such as Microsoft, Virgin Media and Capgemini.

“Degree apprentices are so attractive to employers because from day one they combine the practical knowledge and experience of industry with the academic rigour and research-intensive focus of university education – which is exactly what their business needs.

“We are one of the UK’s earliest adopters of degree apprenticeships because we have long understood that a degree on its own simply isn’t enough for many employers, and is why the vast majority of our traditional undergraduate students undertake a placement year as part of their degree.

“Aston offers degree apprenticeships in a range of subjects, including digital and technology, management, electronic engineering, audiology and nuclear. We are also in the process of developing several other programmes, affirming our belief that degree apprenticeships will continue to grow in popularity with people who want both practical experience and quality education.”

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