Executive Business Sponsor for Digital Transformation, UCAS
Fiona Johnston didn’t start her career in tech. In fact, she studied law at university and, after graduation, worked for a multinational professional services network and in various roles in the education sector. Yet she’s currently Executive Business Sponsor for Digital Transformation at UCAS, the Universities and College Admissions Service.
“If you’d said to me: ‘You’ll be working as a technology leader in the years to come’, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she says. “But now I work in a digital space in a role that is clearly associated with technology. What I’ve learned is that tech careers are for everybody – and the range of opportunities the industry affords is endless.”
A collaboration between employers and universities
Degree apprenticeships were launched in 2015 and combine employment with university study (to at least Bachelor’s degree level), either on a weekly or block basis. The length of a degree apprenticeship varies depending on the programme, but can take between three and six years to complete.
Ultimately, you have to make sure it’s the right option for you because, just like undergraduate courses, degree apprenticeships are extremely diverse.
Programmes are developed by employers, universities and professional bodies working together. Businesses that run degree apprenticeships will ultimately select the successful applicants, although their partner universities will be involved in the process.
“Universities may advertise degree apprenticeships on their websites,” says Johnston. “But application is largely done via employers because these are job opportunities and should be regarded as such.” Entry standards differ, but applicants will usually need to prove a level of academic attainment on a par with university entry.
Earning a salary while you’re learning
There are various benefits offered by degree apprenticeships. First, because apprentices are employees of a company, rather than students, they’ll receive a monthly salary, while all their university tuition fees will be paid by their employer.
Apprentices also get the chance to immediately apply what they’ve learned in their lectures and studies in a real-world business environment. “It’s a different form of education that offers people more choice and another way into the industry,” explains Johnston.
She points out that degree apprenticeships have benefits for an employer, too, who can attract high-calibre individuals into their business while tailoring training to suit the culture of their organisation.
Johnston’s advice for anyone interested in a degree apprenticeship is to do their homework and make sure they understand the range of opportunities they offer. “Ultimately, you have to make sure it’s the right option for you because, just like undergraduate courses, degree apprenticeships are extremely diverse,” she says. “However, if you’re interested in following, say, a STEM or tech route and want a more practical, hands-on, employment-based way of learning, it’s a pathway you should certainly consider.”