The economy of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) faces a significant challenge, being ranked 38th in terms of GVA per head in the UK. The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) identified a key reason for this has been a “failure to grow a serious system of respected employer-led professional and technical qualifications”.

With higher level skills shortages projected across key industry sectors it was clear a strategic regional response was needed to meet this challenge.

The emergence of employer-led higher and degree apprenticeships as a result of new government policy ambitions, coupled with an announcement by the Higher Education and Funding Council for England (HEFCE) of a Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund (DADF), provided a new opportunity for Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) to lead the response.

It was imperative to unite the business and education sectors, along with key partners and regional stakeholders.

SHU secured commitment and support for a successful collaborative bid to the DADF fund, articulating how higher and degree apprenticeship programs could be developed to help meet regional higher level skills needs and tabling a plan of ‘action to achieve’.

“It was imperative to unite the business and education sectors, along with key partners and regional stakeholders.”

This resulted in SHU setting up a Degree Apprenticeship Regional Steering Group to provide oversight of the project, bringing together the LEP, Further Education Colleges, Chambers of Commerce and economically important employer representation, for example the regional NHS Trusts. The group collectively, utilising their own data sources and insights, created a regional economic skills map to further define the challenge, clearly identifying where higher level skills interventions were needed.

To enable SHU to align development of degree apprenticeship provision to these needs and ensure sustainability, further granular research was required, identifying the occupations which needed high-level skills acquisition, and which regional employers were most likely to have a demand for the relevant degree apprenticeships as a result.

SHU commissioned economic modelling experts, EMSI, to undertake this within the regional priority sectors and skills areas informed and defined by the group.

The short, data-rich reports revealed a number of things which continue to help SHU inform new degree apprenticeships development; for example reflecting rapid growth of computer programming, with an expected 3,955 openings for programmers and software development professionals within the region by 2022.

Mark Rayner, Degree Apprenticeship Development Manager at Sheffield Hallam University said: “The data in these reports has revealed to us a number of opportunities for growing our degree apprenticeships over the next few years. We believed that there might be potential in each sector, and now we have hard evidence to support this. We can also see more clearly the occupational areas within each sector where opportunities lie.”

The initiative has seen great success, particularly since taking a proactive approach to talent matching; we now have free Apprenticeship Recruitment events to meet the needs of employers and the aspirations of new talent from our region’s schools and colleges.


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.