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Taking on a new degree apprentice

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Despite the wealth of advantages that higher and degree apprenticeships have to offer, you may still have some questions and concerns on whether they’re right for your organisation.

With this in mind, we’ve asked our apprenticeship expert, David Willett, to address the three most common questions we’re hearing from employers when considering degree apprenticeships for new staff:

Q: I’m not sure I can afford to take on apprentices – surely the business costs of implementing apprentices will far outweigh the benefits?

A: The answer to this question depends on whether your organisation looks at learning and development as a cost or an investment. If your organisation typically considers it a cost, refer back to your business objectives to see whether they can help build a case for investing in skills development. If your organisation has a real requirement for building the skills and talent in your workforce, and you have identified that high level skills will improve service or grow profits, then investing in human capital is just like any other investment.

In terms of salaries, a new apprentice hire on a higher or degree apprenticeship programme would typically be paid somewhere in the region of £15-18k per annum, whereas existing staff can remain on their current salary while learning. In both of these scenarios, you would benefit from work-ready graduates who have gained high level skills while learning your business on-the-job. Most apprenticeship programmes at this level generate high retention rates, which make them a sound investment.

Q: I’m keen to hire an apprentice but I am concerned about the 20 per cent off-the-job requirement?

A: Although all apprenticeships have a 20 per cent off-the-job requirement, it doesn’t mean the apprentice has to spend 20 per cent of their time out of the organisation. The time can be spent in the office, even at their desk, as long as the apprentice is doing things that aren’t part of their normal job, including job shadowing, attending and observing meetings and studying towards the qualification aspect of the apprenticeship. What’s great about a blended-learning delivery approach, like The Open University’s, is that it is incredibly flexible with fitting around work.

If you take the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, for example, the management theory is directly related to the job, so the learning can be applied straight away. The apprentice will also be honing other skills, such as increased performance levels and time management, so the benefits can be steadily reaped as they progress though the programme.

Q: Some degree apprenticeships can take four years to complete. How do I know the skills developed won’t be out of date by the time the apprentices graduate?

A: With the Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship, for example, it has a development programme at its core. As a four-year programme, two of those years involve developing some core IT and technology skills that fundamentally aren’t going to change, such as how core systems and networks work.

The programme will provide a broad education with some specialist training, but for many apprentices this will only be the start of their learning journey. The technology sector evolves at a rapid rate, so you’ll be able to continue to develop these members of staff. Also, this programme allows you to bolt-on additional specialist vendor training, such as Microsoft, Cisco or IBM training.

Top tips to get ahead

Meet David

David Willett

David Willett, Director Corporate Sales, The Open University, co-founded an apprenticeship and talent management business in 2005 before joining the University. With over 15 years’ experience of delivering partnership programmes to a number of blue chip companies and large public sector organisations, David helps organisations like yours to implement degree apprenticeship programmes.


Apprenticeships are all about helping you drive your organisation in terms of performance, profitability and productivity, and you have to link skills directly to those three things to really know how to maximise degree apprenticeships for your business.

David Willett
The Open University

Why the OU

High quality work-based learning

We have nearly 50 years’ experience in making sure knowledge sticks in the minds of busy working adults. In fact, 4 in 10 of all UK part-time undergraduate students are studying with the OU and 76% of our students are in employment.


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