By Jonathan Davies

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to rollout degree apprenticeships.

Marking National Apprenticeship Week, Mr Cameron revealed 9 new degree apprenticeships designed by industry, including key areas such as chartered surveying, aerospace engineering, and nuclear, as a flagship new part of the apprenticeships programme.

Groups of businesses, universities and colleges will come together to develop practical degree courses which will allow people to combine the academic knowledge from a traditional university degree and the practical experience that are both vital for success in the labour market.

Apprentices will split their time between normal university study and gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree from a top university while earning a wage and getting real on-the-job experience in their chosen profession.

Degree apprenticeships are co-designed by employers to boost the employment prospects of apprentices. In some cases they will also lead to professional registration or chartered status with a relevant professional body.

The apprentice will be able to gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree without paying any fees as the cost of course fees are shared between government and employers. Not only will the new qualifications be suitable for school leavers, they will also raise the status of vocational routes of study and be suitable for existing apprentices who want to progress in their careers.

Employers and universities have backed this innovative new model, with over 100 companies working with over 20 universities and several colleges across the country to develop the programme so far. 70 universities have expressed an interest in offering degree apprenticeships in the future. The new degree apprenticeships are expected to be suitable for both small and large businesses, and SMEs involved in the programme so far have said that it will give them better access to graduate-level talent.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Equipping people with the skills they need to get on in life and backing businesses to create jobs are key parts of our long-term economic plan. Degree apprenticeships will give people a great head start, combining a full degree with the real practical skills gained in work and the financial security of a regular pay packet. They will bring the world of business and the world of education closer together, and let us build the high-level technical skills needed for the jobs of the future. I want to see many more businesses and universities begin to offer them."

Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, who last week called for three quarters of jobs in the UK to be medium or highly skilled by 2020, said: "Fast-moving, evolving sectors such as manufacturing increasingly demand higher-level skills. These economically valuable industries can only grow and prosper if highly-skilled employees are there for the taking.

"There has been a noticeable gap in higher-level provision that combines both vocational and academic learning, and degree apprenticeships are the opportunity to fill this gap. For employers and learners alike, Degree apprenticeships are a good step forward. Learners earn while they learn to a degree level and employers have access to relevant, responsive, highly-skilled employees.

"This is an opportunity not to be missed and we urge employers to step up to the plate and work with us to shape this agenda."

John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This new idea of a Degree Apprenticeship is an innovative development and should provide greater diversity in higher education options for people of all ages. Demos’ Commission on Apprenticeships report shows that one third of parents wouldn’t consider an apprenticeship for their child. These new apprenticeships will help change this perception, which was a symptom of the focus on academic qualifications to the detriment of vocational training.