By Daniel Hunter

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock welcomed the creation of the first graduate level Higher Apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, commercial airline piloting and professional development for work based learning practitioners.

Employers including BAE Systems and British Airways expect to recruit their new graduate apprentices this year. In addition, a new framework for the first post-graduate level Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Services has been approved opening up opportunities for employers to recruit and train in accountancy, auditing and tax.

Mr Hancock called on other employers and training providers to follow suit by creating new opportunities for people to gain world-class training through Higher Apprenticeships.

Changes have been made to the standard (the Specification of Apprentices Standards for England - SASE) to include level six and seven apprenticeships — equivalent to bachelors and masters degrees. These changes will come into effect on 6 April 2013, and mean that apprenticeships can better support the development of high level technical skills necessary for growth.

Introducing higher apprenticeships will also benefit individuals who are looking for a work-based route into a profession.

- A level 7 apprenticeship for the professional services sector (accountancy, auditing and tax) has been developed by PwC with partners from across the financial services sector and will be available for employers to adopt from May 2013. This is expected to be the first Higher Apprenticeship to provide a work-based development route to chartered professional status.

- A level 6 apprenticeship in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering has been developed by BAE Systems and will be available from summer 2013.

- A level 6 apprenticeship in Commercial Airline Piloting has been developed by Metskills and will be available from summer 2013.

- A level 6 apprenticeship in Professional Development for Work Based Learning Practitioners has been developed by the University of Derby and will be available from late Spring 2013.

"Britain's prosperity depends on the high-level skills that create world-beating products and services. By creating new apprenticeships at degree level and above, the Government is sending a clear signal that practical learning is a viable route to the professions," Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said.

"Apprenticeships deliver and offer the ideal opportunity for ambitious young people and adults to get ahead while earning a wage - and for employers to recruit the brightest and best recruits."

Sara Caplan, partner, PwC said: “Access to career opportunities in professional services has been transformed by Higher Apprenticeship development. It levels the playing field for employers of all sizes, and recruits, to build business skills that are vital to supporting UK and growth, and stay with you for a lifetime.”

Other sectors, including nursing, healthcare, life-sciences, civil engineering, construction operations management and actuaries have expressed interest in developing apprenticeships at postgraduate level.

Nick Skeet, Employer Relationship Director, Skills for Justice, which today launched a degree-level Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services, said: “The launch of the level 4 Higher Apprenticeship may be just the start for the legal services sector. Working hand in hand with employers and key stakeholders from the sector, we are exploring ways in which an entire pathway of apprenticeships will enable a richer mix of people to get in and get on with a career in law.

“It is not beyond the realms of possibility that there could eventually be a vocational route to becoming a solicitor. We await the final recommendations of the regulators’ Legal Education Training Review with interest and stand ready to work with all stakeholders on shaping future recognised routes into this exciting profession.”

As part of its commitment to make vocational learning an attractive alternative to the traditional higher education route, the Government’s £25m Higher Apprenticeship Fund has been a catalyst to this expansion of apprenticeships and is set to help create over 20,000 Higher Apprenticeships starts by 2015.

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