Wales’ post-16 education charity ColegauCymru acknowledges key reports but states more should be done to ensure degree apprenticeships are fit for purpose and widely available across Wales
Following the release of key findings from two reviews of degree apprenticeships, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and Welsh Government must do more to ensure that degree apprenticeships are fit for purpose, are soundly based on the views and feedback of apprentices, and more widely available across Wales. ColegauCymru is also calling for a consistent and joined up approach between the government and the HE regulator in this policy area. The organisation notes with disappointment that whilst the Welsh Government report makes several clear conclusions in relation to FEIs and WBL there is no evidence of consultation with Further Education Institutions up to this point.
Degree apprenticeships offer individuals the opportunity to study for degree level qualifications whilst working. They are an important development aimed at diversifying the routes into education normally only associated with full time university study.
While Wales currently offers limited scope to pursue degree apprenticeships, a wider range of occupations are available under a similar scheme in England. This has prompted ColegauCymru to issue an urgent call for Wales to develop new occupational areas for degree apprenticeships. The organisation is also asking the government to open routes into both degree and masters level apprenticeships via routes already in place to study for a higher level apprenticeship, which normally ends one level below that of a degree. Currently there is no clear progression route between the programmes and the programme misses one key area of its intended initial focus.
With many people still not aware of the opportunity to study for a degree whilst earning a wage, the organisation is also calling for better publicity and promotion. Importantly, it is asking for more effective advertising of the £20m publicly funded degree apprenticeship vacancies which it believes is needed in order to help diversify the range of candidates applying and securing the roles on offer.
Chair of the ColegauCymru Work-based Learning and Employability Group, Dr Barry Walters commented,
“As a sector, our response to the reports is that as we look to the future, colleges with the appropriate designation and quality assurance policies in place should be able to provide degree apprenticeships directly and be funded as individual institutions to do this rather than via universities.”
“This will improve access to higher level education and ensure as a result that the apprentice voice becomes more effectively heard through formal feedback processes. It will also go a long way to meet the Welsh Government commitment to promote parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes in Welsh education.”
ColegauCymru Chief Executive Iestyn Davies added,
“With Welsh Government promising a bill to transform post compulsory education, the recommendations of the reports must lay the foundation for genuine vocationally-led degree apprenticeships. Wales needs a long-term and sustainable future for the awarding of higher-level technical qualifications both up to, and indeed beyond, degree level. This can be best achieved by building a better balance between further education colleges, the specialists in delivering technical and vocational training, and the support provided by universities.
“Both the evaluation reports and importantly the way in which degree apprenticeships were structured indicates that FE colleges and private training providers are currently treated less favourably than universities when it comes to delivering higher and degree level qualifications. If Welsh Government is truly intent on addressing parity of esteem between vocational and academic study as well as offering greater opportunities for underrepresented groups, it must address this fundamental flaw when it comes to the introduction of the Bill to create a Commission for Tertiary Education and Research.”
Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)
QAA report on the quality of degree apprenticeships in Wales
5 October 2021
Welsh Government Research
Evaluation of the Degree Apprenticeship programme: scoping report
7 October 2021