The University of Birmingham Degree Apprenticeship programmes with PwC and Vodafone, delivered against the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Level 6 standard, combine university life with practical work-based technology projects at the companies to address the skills gaps identified within their businesses. These programmes use the Apprenticeship Levy as part of the companies’ wider technical skills strategies.
“I’m the first person in my family to go to university. The financial support from PwC in paying for university fees and receiving a salary meant going to university was a real option and motivation to do well in my exams and get on to the course” PwC Degree Apprentice, Tom Hough, 18, from Telford, Shropshire
The Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship programmes offered by the University of Birmingham, in conjunction with PwC and Vodafone, are some of the first and largest examples of this kind, in action. Students are employees from day one and paid a salary throughout their course. They attend lectures during term time, and work on a specific project within the business during the summer, as well as undertaking a 12-month placement in their third year.
At the end of the programme, those meeting performance criteria will earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and will continue their careers at the respective employer. These roles include software testers, front or back end developers, data analysts and artificial intelligence specialists as well as in other areas.
Kevin Ellis, chairman of PwC, explains the approach: “The students at the University of Birmingham are a new wave of talent that will bring crucial skills, ideas and perspectives to UK business. We need to invest to create a vibrant tech sector right across the country and ensure those benefits are evenly spread. Our technology degree apprenticeships are one of the steps we're taking to meet this challenge."
Adam Parsons – HR Director at Vodafone adds:"Digital sectors like artificial intelligence, cloud services and the internet of things represent exciting opportunities for the UK economy. The education programme we have created will help us to make the most of these opportunities, enabling university students to develop new skills and prepare for a digital future."
Vodafone Degree Apprentice, Heather Essex continues: “I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to study computer science while getting experience using technology in a real-world business- uni has stretched my skills and programming range and Vodafone understand how important having a good uni experience is.”
As well as businesses working with a training provider to enrol learners, it must be a genuine collaboration for it to work well, with senior level employer buy-in. The apprenticeship programme is a journey, often over several years, where apprentices will develop in their role. Line managers provide an appropriate level of support to the apprentices and also manage the requirement for “off-the-job” training. In addition to their line manager, Digital Degree Apprenticeship students have a Business Point of Contact who is able to support and provide answers to technical queries, or offer insight into digital and technology roles.