AGR Blog

One university's plan for engineering degree apprenticeships


Strathclyde University has always strived to live by the pillars of employer engagement and a “place of useful learning”. Stewart McKinlay MEng, Associate Director, Engineering Academy and Hazel McAllister, Employer Engagement Adviser, Careers Service at the University of Strathclyde show how they are embodying this with their engineering apprenticeships.

Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey placed us in the UK’s top 10 of larger providers for graduate employment - 96.2% of respondents having either secured a job or gone into further study six months after graduation. The university achieved the biggest year-on-year improvement among larger universities.

Like most universities though, we want to continue to improve this performance and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy has acted as a catalyst to fuel the next step change.

In early discussions with employers, many of them were uncertain as to what a degree apprenticeship might look like or what they might want from one. We were also aware of the Oxford Economics Research which showed that on average IT and Technology students took around 45 weeks to get to full productivity. Using Engineering UK’s 2017 average starting salary for engineering and technology graduates indicates the salary cost alone to reach full productivity is over £22k.

As the conversations evolved it became clear that employers valued the accredited BEng (Hons) degree and wanted the softer or professional transferrable skills to significantly improve productivity with Incorporated Engineer being an effective benchmark. A survey of engineering employers of different sectors, sizes, and geographies across the UK identified the common competencies required which combined with an accredited degree delivered by blended learning, met those needs. A range of employers from multinationals to SME’s are working with us to create the pilot.

“The University of Strathclyde have taken a very positive and proactive approach to working with our business to better understand our needs within the new graduate level apprenticeship space” Marie Brennan, Early Careers, BAE Systems Shared Services.

Both employers and the University wanted more though!

We’ve developed an overarching framework that will offer apprenticeships in engineering at undergraduate level for Incorporated Engineer, at Masters Level for Chartered Engineer status, and at Doctorate Level for employers demanding the highest levels of academic and work based integration.

The model is flexible enough to enable employers to recruit direct from school or College or with RPL and also to upskill the existing workforce who may have completed engineering apprenticeships at lower levels already. For many engineering employers, this latter option is likely to be the preferred choice until they have built up experience with the degree apprenticeships.

Given Strathclyde’s strength in Engineering, it was always likely the first degree apprenticeship would be in this sector but as with the Times Higher Education Awards “Business School of the Year” title, plans are already in place to develop further offers in both Business and IT/Digital. As an employer ourselves, we are also looking at how we can utilise our Apprenticeship Levy most effectively.

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