The growth of higher and degree apprenticeships and the 'completion conundrum'

Leading training provider CEO Joe Crossley, of Qube Learning, talks to QA Education about the rise of degree apprenticeships.

Despite a general downturn in apprenticeship starts in England, as widely reported in the national press, higher and degree apprenticeship starts continue to rise.  A House of Commons Briefing Paper (No. 06113) cites that in 2016/17 apprenticeship starts dropped by 18,100 on the previous year.  In 2017/18 starts dropped again by a further 125,200. The paper also asserts that higher level apprenticeship starts have almost doubled over the past two years.

High drop-out rates for apprentices are also widely reported, and these have had their impact on higher and degree apprentices too.  It has been widely reported that over 30% of people that start apprenticeships do not complete them, and that this percentage is getting worse year on year.  Some of the key reasons reported by the press nationally, for apprentices dropping out of provision before completion are: degree apprenticeships - an apprentice joiner

  • Apprentices are not happy with the content of the programme or the quality of the teaching
  • Circumstantial and personal reasons including redundancy, change of employer, personal health, family-related reasons, etc
  • Not having enough time to complete the necessary study and/or their workload is too high

As a training provider, our approach to the development and delivery of Level 5 programmes mean we work closely with employers to develop a delivery approach and content that fully meets their needs. There are tangible benefits to the employer of promoting apprenticeships to their workforce and gaining demand for the programmes.  Feedback received from clients demonstrates clear return on investment whereby students who are undertaking or have completed a program become more efficient within their job roles and stay with their employer for longer either in their current position or through promotion within the company.

The national picture around apprenticeship delivery can appear disparaging.  There is much we can do however to work to improve apprenticeship starts further, at all levels of delivery, and to support employers and apprentices to reach the end of their apprenticeship and achieve.

For more information on degree apprenticeships, see