The Minister participated in a roundtable with degree apprentices Ryan Simmons, Chandra Hughes and Chris Wood, who are on placement with Clipper Logistics Plc, part of GXO the world's largest pure-play contract logistics provider; award-winning real estate advisors Gerald Eve LLP and Smurfit Kappa, a FTSE 100 global packaging company. The group shared their views on the skills and knowledge they’ve developed as a result of undertaking a Degree Apprenticeship, and what they think could be done to encourage other students to choose a similar career path.
The visit coincides with National Apprenticeship Week, which celebrates the achievements of apprentices around the country and the positive impact they make to communities, businesses and the wider economy.
Degree apprenticeships are an alternative earn-and-learn route to a degree qualification, combining working with studying part-time at a university. Apprentices are employed throughout the programme and spend part of their time at university and the rest with their employer.
Sheffield Hallam is one of the largest providers of Degree Apprenticeships in the country, working with more than 570 local and national employers, including Nestle, Amey, the NHS and GXO. Its portfolio has been co-designed in partnership with employers and regional policymakers, including the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
As well as addressing skills gaps in the local and national economy, Sheffield Hallam’s Degree Apprenticeship provision promotes social mobility. Almost half (45%) of the university’s apprentices are from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, compared with the national average of 34%. Many of Hallam’s apprentices are the first in their family to go to university and would not have accessed higher education without the programme.
Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “I love degree apprenticeships and to see Sheffield Hallam celebrate their 2,500th degree apprentice really gets me pumped up about the future of skills in this country.
“Degree apprenticeships offer students the game-changing opportunity to earn as they learn on a university degree and get on-the-job experience as well, and they really do provide a ladder of opportunity to people who might not otherwise have the chance to enrol in higher education.”
Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to Hallam, introduce him to some of our apprentices and demonstrate the breadth of our portfolio, which is driving opportunity and success locally, regionally and nationally.”
Sheffield Hallam’s Degree Apprentice programme supports all ages into employment and helps those locked in low-skilled employment to progress their career, with a particular focus on boosting the local economy. Nearly 70% of apprentices are mature learners, and 41% are from the region.
Degree apprentice Chandra Hughes said: “Choosing the Degree Apprenticeship route with Sheffield Hallam and Gerald Eve has provided the ideal combination of paid work and achieving a master’s degree. I get access to fully-funded qualifications whilst applying my learning to real-world projects in the workplace.”
The University is set to offer three new healthcare degree apprenticeships, becoming the first in the UK to offer an earn-and-learn route to becoming a medical sonographer. The new degree apprenticeships in dietetics, operating department practice and medical ultrasound are set to launch in March, supporting alternative routes to a career in healthcare and addressing shortages in the NHS workforce.
The success of Hallam’s provision has been recognised with a host of award wins, including 2020 Times and Sunday Times - University of the Year for Teaching Quality; 2022 South Yorkshire Apprenticeship Awards - Training Provider of the Year; and 2022 Educate North Awards - University of the Year.