The apprenticeship levy has landed, and over the summer I’ve been out and about speaking to National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) member universities and businesses in every region and sector about their experiences of engaging with degree apprenticeships (DAs) in light of the levy.

It’s clear that there remain some significant challenges and barriers to be overcome if we are to create an environment in which degree apprenticeships can truly flourish – and I’ll be returning to these in a later blog – but there are also tangible benefits and exciting opportunities already emerging for universities and business alike.

Here are my top eight:

1. Filling skills gaps

The success of DAs will be measured, at least in part, by their ability to improve productivity. Employers have long reported hard to fill vacancies at graduate level but new degree apprenticeship standards, like the one in Digital & Technology Solutions, are now helping them to address some of the most chronic skills gaps.

2. Improved university-business connections

Interest in degree apprenticeships, coupled with concerns over the Levy, is drawing employers closer to universities – as one put it, ‘it has given us a reason to work together’. This in turn is enabling new and meaningful conversations around talent solutions in the round – from live projects to placements to higher and degree apprenticeships. Members also hope to build on these emerging partnerships in other areas such as knowledge exchange.

3. Growing higher-level skills

As universities focus increasingly on their roles as anchor institutions, degree apprenticeships offer a model that can encourage the development of more higher skills in the local and regional economy, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses, not just for new recruits but as a route to upskilling existing employees.

4. Closer partnerships with FE

Many universities have long standing relationships with local FE providers, with progression and articulation agreements in place. But the DA agenda has seen some of these relationships develop and flourish, sometimes including co-delivery of learning, much to the approval of local and regional employers that so value such integrated solutions across further and higher education.

5. A new means of enhancing social mobility

Disadvantaged students often face multiple barriers – from getting into university in the first place, getting through university and achieving good grades, to finding a graduate job at the end of it. With examples of universities exercising flexibility around entry requirements and employers actively targeting disadvantaged students, and buoyed by strengthening partnerships with FE, there is a real opportunity for degree apprenticeships to help enhance social mobility.

6. Breaking down internal barriers

For both universities and businesses, DAs are playing a part in breaking down internal barriers too. At one institution this has brought the employability and business development functions together for the first time – to the benefit of students and employers alike. And employers are setting up communities of early talent, bringing together graduates, interns and apprentices to learn from each other for mutual benefit.

7. A chance to refresh talent strategies

The availability of degree apprenticeships is prompting employers to take a fresh look at their early talent strategies. We are seeing employers take a more blended approach to early talent, with opportunities for graduates, interns and degree apprentices, as they focus on the optimal ways to attract and develop the people that will drive their business forward.

8. Great students, great employees, great people

Employers report that their degree apprentices are motivated, engaged, productive, achieving academically and energising colleagues across the business. Universities too are full of praise for the degree apprentices they are working with, noting the positive impact they have on the undergraduate students they are learning alongside. It seems that all are agreed that degree apprenticeships are unearthing some exciting new talent.

What are the key benefits that your university or business is finding from engaging with degree apprenticeships? Get in touch to let us know or join the conversation on Twitter @NCUBTweets #DAbenefits or email.

by Ali Orr, NCUB Talent and Employability Consultant

Our report on NCUB members’ experiences of degree apprenticeships and the emerging impact of the Levy will be available in the autumn.


More NCUB Blogs by Ali:

Moving social mobility up the agenda

Collective action to break the deadlock on diversity and social mobility

Time to accelerate?

Five take home messages from #UVAC2017

Degree apprenticeships: A game changer?