Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University have announced a new degree-level apprenticeship programme as a means of addressing the skills gap and providing an alternative route into higher education.
The Universities have been successful in a bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to develop and launch the new programme, which is aimed at meeting the needs of employers in the Sheffield City Region and beyond.
The project will use the expertise of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Training Centre and Sheffield Hallam’s multi-disciplinary Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI).
Degree apprenticeships, funded by a combination of employer payment and government support, are designed to offer young people the opportunity to pursue study at university alongside real-life work experience.
The new degree apprenticeships will begin in September 2017 when 90 apprentices will begin to study for degrees in Integrated, Materials and Rail engineering as well as achieving professional accreditation alongside their employment, with the opportunity to progress to study at Masters level.
Prof Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University, said: “Filling the skills gap in engineering is a crucial issue for the UK’s economy. Universities have an important part to play in developing this workforce that will play a key element in driving economic growth.
“The fact that a University has a global reputation for the quality of its research and traditional teaching is in no way in contradiction with offering technical opportunities to able young people. This is an area where Sheffield University has been pioneering amongst research-led institutions and we are delighted to continue our commitment to genuine access of the highest quality.”
Prof Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, added: “I am delighted the University has been awarded this funding to help us further develop our degree apprenticeship provision and help meet the skills requirements of our regional economy.
“We will work closely with HEFCE and industry partners to respond to this challenge to develop the very highest quality apprenticeships which allow talented young people to take this pioneering route, fully funded by industry.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering has forecast that the UK needs an extra 50,000 STEM technicians and 90,000 STEM professionals every year to replace people retiring from the workforce, and firms have warned that this could lead to vital infrastructure projects such as HS2, Crossrail and Thames Tideway being “hundreds or thousands” short on the numbers of engineers they need.