Preparing for a modern economy with Knowledge-Based Industries and a well qualified and highly specialised workforce at its heart, requires us to grow our own talent pool as well as attracting in-bound talent.
Around 50,000 people commute within the Greater Exeter Travel to Work Area every week day. People that live in East Devon may work in Exeter or Teignbridge and people that work in Mid Devon perhaps live in East Devon (see the diagram below). Children and young people travel considerable distances to learn too. The catchment area of some schools and colleges extends right across local council and sometimes county boundaries. Our ‘raw material’ for this talent pool needs to be nurtured from a young age regardless of the student’s or the school’s location, as inevitably we will all be working together, in an effort to make this region a great place to live and work.
Looking at the performance of schools and students is a sometimes a little like comparing ‘apples and pears’; up until 16 years ‘student residency’ is all important and at 18 years’ school location’ becomes the basis of the ranking. On the whole:
Primary school children, in most parts of the region, perform better than the national average.
Secondary school students performance at GCSE level (around 16 years) is more varied with GCSE results revealing a range of nearly 10% between the top performing and least well performing schools per council area.
Young people, are increasingly more mobile around about the age of 18, and tend to do well academically.
BUT then disappointingly the proportion progressing to Higher Education (HE) is notably lower than would be expected. Nationally, a decline of 4% in university applications has been recently reported. Closer examination reveals that this reduction is mainly in ‘mature’ students and in Nursing/Medicine/ Health related degrees where student tuition fees are no longer exempted. However, our small (124 students), local (South West), recent (June 2017) research exercise at a Big Bang SW indicates that 13% fewer school students intend to apply to university than the students surveyed in 2016 (see graph below). This is concerning as the proportion of young people progressing to Higher Education in EHOD is already notably lower than the national average.
Student debt (Tuition fee loans of up to £9250/annum plus maintenance loans are charged at 6.1% interest from this autumn) has been hitting the headlines and combined with economic uncertainty may have influenced a growing reticence amongst potential students to invest in themselves through HE. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, it appears that this reduction in HE applications may not result in a corresponding increase in students intending to undertake an apprenticeship, despite prominent Government campaigns and opportunities locally. Perhaps the messaging about university fees has been stronger than that of pro-Apprenticeships?
Accepting the research exercise was small and two years is not a trend, it is nevertheless interesting. Perhaps we are left with more questions than answers? At the very least this research indicates that more young people are certain about what they want to do. It may be that more young people want to be entrepreneurs, more want to get jobs (which does not and should not rule out learning), and that we all need to examine why local young people are less likely to apply to University and what can be done to increase the uptake of apprenticeships at every level. Working together is more likely to be the most successful approach. Whatever the route young people take, we want them to achieve their potential, to continue to learn and to contribute to a more modern economy and a happy community.
Talent abounds at Big Bang SW which is the South West’s schools largest celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Held at the University of Exeter on June 21st and organised by Education Business Partnership SW its impossible not to be caught up in an upward spiral of inspiration and STEM possibilities.
Almost 2000 students from across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Swindon and over 60 local, national and international organisations and sponsors, including Beckton Dickinson, Babcock International and Spirent arrived to showcase their work and inspire one another. An amazing ‘Mega Class’ in the form of an interactive science session for 500 students, led by the National Space Academy, took place in the Great Hall.
The prestigious Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition was one of many awards to be decided at this event. Camborne Science and International Academy (CSIA) were delighted that students attending Nexus, their Gifted STEM programme, won two awards. The Best Crest Award which was sponsored by Exeter City Council and awarded by The Lord Mayor of Exeter, herself a Maths & Physics graduate was won by team ‘Juvo’ (Latin for help, assist, aid) . Their project resulted from their desire to solve a problem: “We are Year 7s and we have first-hand experience of being new arrivals in a huge secondary school and needing some help finding our way around…”(Gabriel Almeida, Max Anthony and James Belshaw). Team Juvo came up with the concept of how schools could use technology to communicate better with students, staff and visitors with interactive screens positioned around the site. They thought through how essential it is to engage with students, staff and visitors by tailoring profiles containing a range of Apps to suit the three user groups. The interactive screens offered site maps, newsletters and school information accessible to all; to individual timetables, co-curricular activity information, school bulletin, CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) reporting, Google drive and more, accessible to students; with other specific Apps aimed at teachers. “It’s like a digital friend who is always there to help you …” (Gabriel, Max and James).
As part of the Nexus Co-Curricular Programme, students will be learning how to develop Apps and look forward to Juvo developing their idea further. Mira Oates, Nexus Co-Curricular and Primary Coordinator was understandably proud and excited by both the success of both teams. “Huge congratulations to all the students who took part and I am incredibly proud of them. I was quietly confident our students would win something because the quality of their ideas and their passion. The Juvo team have an excellent concept which I can genuinely see it successfully used in schools and other organisations”.(Mira Oates)
A full list of awards and the talented teams can be found here
Korneel Verhaeghe – Partnership Development Officer from the University of Exeter writes:
This April marked the start of the new apprenticeship levy. Charged at 0.5% of payroll costs for UK employers with a wage bill of over £3 million, the Levy is part of the government’s commitment to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. This creates new and interesting opportunities for organisations both large and small to recoup their costs or take advantage of government funding by hiring apprentices.
The University of Exeter has responded to this new opportunity with its pioneering BSc Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship launched in 2016, and more programmes on the horizon for 2017 and 2018.
A 2016 report showed the average UK student finishes their degree with £44,000 of debt, making degree apprenticeships a welcome opportunity for many talented and enterprising students looking to gain a degree without the burden of tuition fees. Through programmes of 4-5 years in duration, apprentices will gain a wealth of professional experience, earn a salary and enhance their lifelong career prospects. For employers, this offers new opportunities to attract high-calibre students while embedding them in the culture of your business, building loyalty and supporting growth.
This trailblazing programme at the University is benefitting from a mix of students and companies, ranging from IBM, Renishaw and the Met Office to smaller businesses such as Beran Instruments and Aspidistra Software.
“The combination of residential and remote learning, allows our degree apprentices to combine university studies with a real role at IBM. We’re confident they are learning valuable digital skills and look forward to seeing how much they will achieve.”
Charlotte Fisher Morecroft; IBM
The programme is delivered through a unique model of residentials and online study, created in such a way as to minimise the impact on apprentices’ roles in the workplace. Students travel from across the country to the Exeter campus twice a year for several days to kick-start new modules, while the rest of the year is taught through online learning and lectures. Recognising the value of the extensive real-wold experience gained by apprentices, approximately one third of credit towards the degree apprenticeship is assessed through work-based learning.
“As a business we really value the blended learning element of the course which allows our apprentices to take full advantage of the earn as you learn element of an apprenticeship.”
Emma Portman; Renishaw PLC
Students on the Digital and Technology Solutions programme go through 2 years of core teaching, before taking modules relating to the specialist role-related pathway they are appointed to. They graduate as either a Software Engineer, IT consultant, Business Analyst, Cyber Security Analyst, Data Analyst or Network Engineer.
Throughout their course apprentices are assigned a mentor in the organisation and an academic mentor from the University, allowing for close monitoring of their progress, academic and pastoral needs.
“We have found the Apprenticeship Programme to be very well structured, with ample support and information being provided at all stages, resulting in an enhanced learning experience, and enabling us to transfer and implement larger corporate ‘best practice’ within our smaller SME environment.
Our learners have clearly benefited from the excellent working relationships formed with a variety of professional and experienced people, both in terms of other students on the course and lecturers.”
Peter Morrish; Beran Instruments
Large and Small Companies
Companies with a wage bill over £3 million a year pay 0.5% of this (with a £15,000 exemption) into an online account on a monthly basis. They can choose to benefit from this levy by hiring apprentices, in which case the accumulated money will go towards the tuition fees.
Emma Portman, Test and Training Manager at Renishaw, has enjoyed working with the University in recent years:
“Starting an apprenticeship scheme can be a long, complicated process and even though Renishaw has a well-established degree-level software apprenticeship scheme it was with some trepidation that we embarked on our new supplier relationship with the University of Exeter. However, from the very beginning they were engaged, focused and enthusiastic. Our support team ensured that we had all of the information we needed quickly and our first cohort of apprentices joined the Digital and Technology Solutions degree successfully in September 2016.”
Companies not paying the levy can also benefit from this new system, as they will only pay 10% of the tuition fees, while the Government covers the remaining 90%. This provides smaller companies with a great and affordable way to grow their workforce, whether in number or in skill. Based on the BSc Degree Apprenticeship’s tuition fees of £27,000 over 4 years; this means small companies only pay £2,700 (10%); or £675 per year; to hire a new apprentice or to develop an already existing employee.
Beran Instruments, based in North Devon, currently has 1 student on the programme and has decided to hire another apprentice for the September 2017 intake. The company website boasts of their past success in hiring apprentices, some of which have now proceeded to managerial positions.
Peter Morrish, who joined the company in 1990 as an apprentice and is now a key member of the senior management team, cherishes the benefits of the degree apprenticeship on both the company and the student level:
“The Company has enjoyed various benefits from being involved with Exeter University’s Apprenticeship Programme, not least of which has been the significant level of development for the trainees as they have been able to apply theoretical learning to practical work applications from Day 1. The Company also benefits from improved access to a local high quality training provider, resulting in much greater communication and collaboration between the two organisations. The industry-focused modules relate closely to key business requirements.”
The current students on the programme are very positive about the degree apprenticeship and see clear benefits to taking this route of vocational education:
“Being able to learn on the job while also learning at uni is great. As the course has progressed I’ve found that the knowledge is beginning to overlap and is reinforcing my learning on both sides. I’ve also learnt a lot about time management – you have to make sure you keep on top of everything, which at times can be challenging, like with any degree.”
The result of the degree apprenticeship programme is an experienced graduate, with a skillset moulded specifically to the needs of your business, which has shown to lead to increased loyalty to the company.
Quinten John joined Beran Instruments as an apprentice in 2011 and is currently on the IT degree apprenticeship at the University of Exeter. He explains how the programme is benefiting both him and the company:
“The flexible programme allows you to attend to work duties whilst learning in parallel, and enables you to specialise and develop particular skills to meet your own individual career aspirations and also the ongoing needs of the business.” Quinten John; Software Degree Apprentice – Beran Instruments
If you would like to explore how a degree apprenticeship can benefit your organisation, please get in touch with Partnership Development Officer Korneel Verhaeghe (01392 72 62 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org), who will gladly provide you with information and answer any questions.
“The only thing worse than training your employees and losing them, is not training your employees and keeping them.”
Exeter and Heart of Devon – Employment and Skills Board is an independent body and voice for employers, aiming to improve employment across Devon and beyond.