back to article biz dept: Youth apprentice? Get a degree while you're hired

Blighty’s government has come up with a new plan to get kids into science, tech, engineering and maths careers – by giving ‘em a degree along with their apprenticeship. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) reckons degree apprenticeships could “revolutionise” the way the yoof get their digital skills and has …

  1. Mike Pellatt

    Oh look, a "thin sandwich" course...

    1. frank ly

      Yes, this takes me back to the 70s when I was a student apprentice on a thin sandwich course. The entire system requires companies to have faith in their future, a 'vision' of long term stability in their operations and willingness to invest time and money in their staff.........

      I remember a manager telling me that he wasn't happy that I and my fellow apprentices were given 'time off with pay' to attend a degree course, because we'd just leave for a better job when we'd finished. I said that we might do but the company could also recruit new staff who'd themselves had a degree education as well as experience in appropriate areas by similar methods, so everyone would benefit. He went quiet and scratched his head over that one.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: this takes me back to the 70s

        Yes this does seem like a re-invented and re-invigorated(?) HND.

        Back in the 70's you basically had four degree choices:

        Full-time degree - typically run a University (BSc).

        Sandwich degree - typically run by Polytechnics (BSc/HND), but also offered by some Universities (BSc).

        Day/block release - Available from polytechnics and FE colleges aimed at apprentices, resulting in an HND

        Spare time - An OU degree (BSc)

        But totally agree with you, investing in students and apprentices requires a level of confidence in their future from companies that seems to be in short supply these days.

        1. Mike Pellatt

          Re: this takes me back to the 70s

          Plus the "thick" sandwich - 1 year in industry, 3 years degree, 1 year in industry. This satisfied the then (pre-CPD) training requirements for CEng, just leaving 2 years to do in a "responsible position".

          Very few left, except in the Forces, by the time I left school in 1973. The economic state of the country was doing for them. At graduation in 1976 it was next-to-impossible to find a formal scheme that gave you 2 years' postgrad training to satisfy the CEng requirement, at least in electronics. Different for the Civils, I think.

          The move from a 3-year BSc(Eng) to a 4-year M.Eng. from my alma mater was, without a doubt, in part a repsonse to this.

          Not particularly regretting that I didn't take the last-ditch opportunity a few years ago to get CEng under the grandfathered "old" scheme.

          1. Matt 21

            Re: this takes me back to the 70s

            The biggest difference I'd say is that today the government is keen to make almost anything a "degree" course so they can say they've achieved an increase in the number of people with degrees.

            It was also interesting to see IBM's name mentioned as I was told they're currently in a global recruitment freeze period.

  2. Rocket_Rabbit

    Who cares?!

    Does IT actually want people with degrees anyway? I don't think so.

    1. Mark Dempster

      Re: Who cares?!

      >Does IT actually want people with degrees anyway? I don't think so.<

      Sounds like someone who doesn't have one....;-)

      Seriously, IT degrees will only ever produce a graduate with out-of-date skills. However it does produce people with skills in critical thinking, research abillities, etc, that ARE an asset to the business and who can easily update their skills on the job.

      Personally I got my academic qualifications (2 HNDs & a BSc) on a day-release basis from my employers (local government & NHS) which I found to be a good way of formalising my practical experience. That was quite a few years ago though, when the public sector offered perks like that to offset the lower-than-private-sector salaries.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who cares?!

        In my experience those coming with an IT degree are over confident and unwilling to learn as they already think they know it all.

        Quite honestly almost any degree shows you can read books a regurgitate what you've learnt, with the advantage that you don't think you know everything about IT.

        Mind you the graduates of recent years only seem to be able to regurgitate food and beer...............

  3. OurManInX

    About time

    Just like in Germany - 3 year degree, 8 hours a day, 6 months a year - the other 6 months at place of work doing apprenticeship.

    Result1, staff with degrees and understanding of the company, that you have trained and understand. Those who fail you don't have to keep. Generally paid €900 per month.

    Result2, Companies get the degrees/training they want

    Problem1, see Result2

  4. hammarbtyp

    Good for the student, maybe not for the company

    It's a great idea, but the main issue is that you give your staff high quality training and pay them crap wages.

    After 3 years you produce a 21 year old who has a degree plus 3 years experience. The company then turns round and offers a small increment on the wage, at which point your worker says thank you very much and moves off to another company who are willing to pay the going rate for the experience and qualifications, meaning now the original companies investment 3 years is down the drain.

    Obviously not the student fault, just shortsightedness by the company .

    Of course there used to be an effective way of training your staff to degree level and that was the OU. That was before the government felt that OU degrees should cost the same as any other university making it out of reach for most mature students.

  5. Alien8n

    Not good for the other students

    Does anyone else spot the elephant in the room here? So you do your apprenticeship degree and the govt will now pay 3/4 of the fees. While I'm all for getting more people into STEM courses it does mean that if you're unfortunate enough to be a full time student on any of the courses that the apprentices are on you are left with the undeniable fact that the person studying right next to you effectively has a full grant for the course while you're left with a 9k (probably more as the fees will most likely have to rise to pay for the apprentices) debt each year. The only way this can be fair is to go back to the old grant system and scrap tuition fees.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not good for the other students

      There won't be anybody on the course not on the scheme.

      Certain universities will be quick to "customise" degrees to fit this funding in partnership with specific employers. Some of this will be good - you will have engineering degrees specifically on fixing RR engines at whatever Derby Tech is called today.

      But mostly you will have degrees in web design in partnership with some temp agency who farms the students out to different clients for a few months.

      The real problem will be who is guaranteeing the scheme? 2 years into your sandwich the government changes the tax rules or the company decides to make cuts and you are suddenly hit with tuition fees for the remainder of the course or the uni just scraps it because it doesn't have a partner.

      1. Alien8n

        Re: Not good for the other students

        It depends on the nature of the course. If you have 20 people doing a course with a module on development and 2 apprentices doing a course which includes an module it makes more sense to dump the apprentices in with the regular students. Happens all the time at the college I work at with the English, maths and IT courses, you'll get a real mix of students from across the college, from arts students through to engineers, all in the same room because they all need to improve their English or maths.

  6. Britt Johnston

    Freedom to move and grow?....

    As comments mention, the idea has been around for decades, but is becoming extinct. Yet, the recent EU report on uni education found that, particularly in German-speaking areas, this approach has been very successful (especially for practically-minded kids who have had enough of school) and encouraged other countries to try it.

    I would suggest something else - if UK industry can't get its head around building and paying for practical skills, why not consider doing such a course in a European institute, and affiliate to a European firm - many of the institutes offer courses in English, or maybe your language skills are already good enough. My bosses son is signed on to one in Baden (CH) with ABB, for instance.

    Plan and apply about 12-14 months in advance.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Freedom to move and grow?....

      > if UK industry can't get its head around building and paying for practical skills, why not consider doing such a course in a European institute

      I seem to remember reading that some EU universities don't charge tuition fee's!

  7. Derek Kingscote

    Cost of a UK University Degree : £133,240 over 29 years

    I am fed up with the "you don't have to pay until you graduate" mantra

    This calculation is from Hargreaves Lansdown :

    How to fund a university education

    By Deputy editor Tim Bennett Aug 07, 2012

    See last 3 lines on costs here :

    The cost of going to university is rocketing. From September, students in England will face paying average annual tuition fees of £8,385, says Alexandra Goss in The Sunday Times. Three-quarters of universities are levying the maximum £9,000 for at least one course, while a third will charge it for all degrees, according to the Office for Fair Access. That's well over twice the average paid in 2011-2012. Taking living costs into account, this year's average student could graduate with £53,400 in debt. So what's the best way to pay for all this?

    Most students won't be able to just write a cheque, so many will be forced to take out a student loan instead. But watch out. Financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown has looked at the interest payable on a student loan, based on borrowing the £9,000 of tuition fees every year, plus £5,000 of maintenance costs. If a student lands a £40,000 a year job, they'll end up paying back £133,240 over 29 years, including interest of £89,750 (this assumes average inflation of 3% a year plus salary growth of 2% above the retail price index).

    When will the commentators wake up to what's going on?

    Just wait until the current cohort graduate with massive debts and debts that will be running away with no prospect of these graduates ever catching up. They'll soon be bleating.

    I've been warning of this for some time; but no-one seems interested.

  8. KroSha

    So after deciding that can't afford to fund university places and telling universities to charge for tuition, is funding uni places?

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