University of Sheffield announces pioneering degree level apprenticeships

The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has announced a new education route for successful apprentices to study advanced vocational university degrees, as part of their apprenticeship training.

The quality, industry powered, apprenticeships are set to play a key role in cementing collaborations between universities and businesses and boosting UK productivity.

The university will become one of the first in higher education to offer quality advanced manufacturing foundation, Undergraduate and Masters degrees using the apprenticeship model jointly funded with businesses.

Successful apprentices will have the opportunity to continue their studies up to Masters level.

The traditional route to becoming an Incorporated or Chartered Engineer is through GCSEs; A-levels; a traditional academic BEng or MEng degree at university, and then employment.

The new, high quality, technical, vocational route into university, which is a development of the University’s successful AMRC advanced apprentices scheme, will feature an innovative curriculum in advanced manufacturing to recognise the skills, experiences and particular learning styles of the apprentices, while meeting the needs of employers.

Nuclear AMRC welding apprentice Sam Biddleston. The Nuclear AMRC is part of the host venue for the Global Manufacturing Festival 2013
The pioneering new education route will train the advanced manufacturers of tomorrow.

The degree level apprenticeships programme will give a tailored alternative for students wishing to continue from their advanced apprenticeship or A-Levels/BTEC onto a Foundation Degree and a Higher Apprenticeship that will link into a new Bachelor and Master of Manufacturing Technology.

The news was announced by Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, during a visit to the AMRC, who highlighted the key role the degree level apprenticeships will have in supporting innovation and boosting productivity.

The pioneering new education route will train the advanced manufacturers of tomorrow, filling vital skills gaps to help Britain re-shore manufacturing – from research and development to supply.

The Minister said: “The strength and resilience of our economy is dependent on the skills of our workforce, and it’s only right that as a “One Nation Government” we ensure everyone can gain new qualifications and a rewarding career.

The new educational pathway will be developed thanks to a £1.6m HEFCE funding award. The award will give groups under-represented in higher education access to world class university education in an internationally leading translational research context, with simultaneous work-based training to create the next generation of engineers.

Sheffield forgemasters apprentice
The new educational pathway will be developed thanks to a £1.6m HEFCE funding award.

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett added: “Universities have a key role to play in driving innovation, economic growth and creating jobs. Just last week, the Government’s Productivity Plan laid out the challenge to the UK to find an ‘extra gear in productivity’.

“A key element of this is the very best quality skills of the kind being demanded by high-tech industries such as aerospace and automotive. This is why we have added to our world-class research centres an advanced apprentice route which opens up degree level study and beyond in a world-leading University research environment.

“This very much reflects the ambitions of the government and the needs of our economy, and I am delighted that Sheffield has worked 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.  It also complements our significant investment in engineering teaching, including a state of the art £81 million Engineering building on our main campus offering truly exceptional facilities for this vital area of teaching.”

The University’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre already boasts a track record of boosting productivity, with companies using the AMRC’s expertise typically achieving a five-fold reduction in the time it takes to machine a component and double their productivity. Training the next generation of advanced vocational degree level engineering apprentices through a new education pathway looks set to further enhance this.

Professor Keith Ridgway, Executive Dean of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing said: “The new pathway will be delivered with a curriculum which will provide academic rigour alongside practical skills and high quality employer-led training that is designed to meet business needs and create the professional, creative engineers of tomorrow.

“The innovative new model of work-based learning is expected to attract different groups of students than traditional academic models, increasing diversity within cohorts and ultimately within the profession itself.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts that the UK needs an extra 50,000 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) technicians and 90,000 STEM professionals every year just to replace people retiring from the workforce.

Current trends indicate that the proportion of higher-skilled jobs in the manufacturing sector will continue to increase annually.  Between 2011 and 2013 engineering vacancies increased by 12% overall but the proportion of ‘skills shortage’ vacancies carried by employers has risen by 60% in the SCR. Additional job creation in the manufacturing sector could add up to £12bn per year to the UK economy.

The Foundation and Bachelors Degree pathways will be available to those who have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering, A-Levels or BTEC who then want to progress on to a higher apprenticeship. There will also be routes onto the Foundation Degree course for those who have work experience or employment in engineering at Level 3.