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For the last thirty years, a degree has been viewed as being virtually the only pathway to a high-level level managerial career. In fact, many employers demand a 2.1 or above before they will even consider looking at a CV, essentially creating an internal triage system to sift through the thousands of applicants they will have. 

The cost of a well-balanced education, at almost any university in the UK, is high with many students leaving with a degree but also a student debt of approximately £40,000 + living costs.

Aside from a degree what does your money buy?

  • Deep knowledge in an academic field
  • The ability to think critically, construct an argument and debate
  • An opportunity to live away from home
  • Time to grow up
  • Opportunities to make new friends and diverse your network
  • NOT having a job at the end

Is there any other way to get a degree minus the debt?

Until 2015, the answer was no, but the government has realised that not only is the cost of a degree a serious barrier for many young people. There is also a greater need for more practical qualifications to be taught by the organisations and the businesses who understand what training, skills, and insights they want their employees to have. 

This alternative is a Degree Apprenticeship; a vocational and practical qualification that results in students receiving a high-class degree and three years of real life, real workplace training. 

The cost is nothing, yes nothing and from what we hear from young Degree Apprentices all the other boxes are ticked too. 

Degree Apprentices will acquire 

  • A deep and specific knowledge of the industry and sector in which they are working.
  • A wide range of skills, many appropriate to sustain a long-term career.
  • The opportunity to live away from home, if they chose too.
  • Time to grow up as no employer has time to spend on coping with hangovers and tardy employees. Employers have high expectations. 
  • Opportunities to make friends, cultivate a network and find individuals who might become a mentor or help later on.
  • Generally, a job and a degree at the end of the course.

To help reassure parents, we can report that DAs are as rigorous as a traditional degree. However, these are degrees with bonuses such as learning how to manage and communicate with clients, if relevant, to write code and be trained in reporting and management of all aspects of a job. Learning how to solve business problems and communication are essential transferable skills that can be utilised in any business later on making any student far more attractive as an employee.  

For many DAs the application process is rigorous and apart from needing excellent A level results will involve time and energy on the students part.

Stage 1.  an online application: a CV, a job application covering letter and some basic, personal Q & As 

Stage 2.  possibly a video or telephone interview

Stage 3.  live assessment - held at an assessment centre it will be a busy day, with lots of other applicants 

Stage 4.  hopefully, a job offer

There are still only a fraction of the proposed number of DAs on the market.  

Some companies will only offer  2 - 10 places each year and as they will have hundreds of applications and CVs to choose from please expect the process to be highly competitive. 

All DAs are created by businesses in partnership with an academic institution who act as the degree provider. The course content has to conform to a National Standard which will have been written with the cooperation of at least ten other businesses working in the same field, ensuring that the degree has depth and is recognised and valued by others.  All programs and their providers are accredited by a National body who oversee DAs specifically. 

At the end of the course, many students are likely to remain with the organisation they have trained with and can advance in the job quickly thanks to having acquired the specific skills, both practical and theoretical, combined with an understanding of how real life works that the organisation requires. British Telecom report that the retention rate for Apprentices within their business is much higher than for those coming into the business via their graduate scheme: 93% versus 38%. Other large businesses are suggesting that the appeal and success of DAs will mean that they will start to invest less in graduate training programs in the future and put more funding into their Degree Apprenticeship (and Apprenticeship) schemes.

We should point out that DAs are NOT right for everyone. Applicants have to be motivated and prepared to put in the hours as they are usually expected to work a full week and study in their spare time. At present, the courses offered are mostly connected to technical jobs although there are a few management training programs on offer. We have also heard that Queen Mary's University is considering a social change DA and Manchester Metropolitan University are providing a DA in Fashion buying.

The Degree Apprentices that we have met are all delighted with their choices and suggest that they have advanced straight to GO! by being tuition debt free, having a degree, real skills and in the longer term a job. We suspect their parents are too! 

Important note; Degree Apprenticeships are only available to students who are entitled to work in the UK. Therefore, overseas students who do not have an eligible work visa cannot apply. 

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