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6 February 2024

The Importance of Apprenticeships in Modern Education

Dr Francis Cowe, Director FE Partnerships and Degree Apprenticeships at the University of South Wales (USW), looks at the importance of apprenticeships in modern education.

What is National Apprenticeship Week?

Running from Monday 5 February until the following Sunday, National Apprenticeship Week is an annual event which aims to raise awareness of apprenticeships and their positive impact on individuals, businesses, and the economy.

The week also provides a platform for educational institutions, employers, and apprentices to come together and highlight the value of work-based learning.

The theme for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, which is now in its 17th year, is ‘Skills for Life’, and is encouraging people to consider how apprenticeships can help individuals develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and employers to develop a workforce with future-ready skills.

Why is the University of South Wales involved in apprenticeships?

In 2018, we decided to enter the emerging space of degree apprenticeships and made a conscious decision to ensure that apprenticeship provision was embedded in our growth strategy, forging clear links between our skills, academic faculties, and our wider history of applied learning and employer-informed curricula, while also working to meet the needs of regional and national employers.

National Apprenticeship Week allows us to highlight the strong emphasis we place on practical, hands-on learning experiences and the importance in the curricula of knowledge, skills, and behaviour. Prior to 2018 the University was already offering, and still does, a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across various disciplines, ranging from business, engineering, cyber security, data sciences, creative industries, health, and social sciences, to name a few.

Through all of these subjects, we provide students with opportunities for professional development and a curricula that links to jobs in the regional and national economy.

We also work with our FE Partners – The College Merthyr Tydfil, Coleg Gwent, Bridgend College, Coleg y Cymoedd and Cardiff and Vale College – via a Strategic Alliance. This offers pathways to our Degree Apprenticeships and, increasingly, an opportunity for students to ‘start local’, and even begin their degree apprenticeships before coming to USW, with partners delivering study pathways which lead to study in Higher Education.

What apprenticeship opportunities does the University offer?

There are various routes, on offer in both England and Wales, which students can take to work towards the degree apprenticeships on offer through the University. We also offer a range of part-time and applied degrees that combine learning and working, the part-time courses normally taking five years to complete.

Our Degree Apprenticeships in Wales are now being designed around a four-year model. In England the Policing Degree Apprenticeship is delivered over three years, with the Police Community Support Officer qualification offered over 15 months.

Our current offer in Wales includes Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Semiconductor Technologies, DTS Cyber Security, Data Science, and Digital Technology Solutions, while last year we also launched a four-year Welsh Government-approved Railway Engineering degree Apprenticeships in conjunction with Nantgarw-based Coleg y Cymoedd.

We are also working with other our Alliance partners on developing a range of new and exciting Construction Degree Apprenticeships as well as revising and updating our Digital offer, including Cyber Security and Data Science Degree Apprenticeships.

Meanwhile, In England we offer a Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), Level 4 qualification for Police Community Support Officers, a degree in Professional Policing Practice, and  (PCSO) Apprenticeship Certificate in Community Policing Practice.

We develop our degree apprenticeships in partnership with employers, professional bodies, and to relevant sector frameworks and standards.

For example, in England and Wales we run our policing provision in conjunction with a number of Forces, including Dyfed-Powys, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire, with new education programmes also due to start next month with Gwent Police and South Wales Police. All our policing apprenticeships are mapped to and approved by the College of Policing.

What are the wider benefits of degree apprenticeships?

While individuals benefit professionally from studying for a degree apprenticeship, and can take advantage of the financial benefits of ‘earn while you learn’ study, there are wider benefits to the University, surrounding community, and to the region’s businesses.

  • Degree apprenticeship opportunities, which are run in partnership with employers, act as a catalyst for skills, economic growth, and social justice.
  • They open up the talents and riches of our local communities to employers and build constructive opportunities for local and national engagement with degree apprenticeships – including via our schools and colleges networks and strategic alliances.
  • The degree apprenticeships are benchmarked so they are of a guaranteed quality and are mapped to academic standards, industry expectations and core skills, competencies, and behaviours.
  • Apprentices get access to the wider support and resources of a traditional University student whilst undertaking a tailor-made programme that fits with a clear job career trajectory – they can also access advice and guidance at any time if they feel it is not right for them.
  • Employers get to have a say in the design, development, and review of the offer, contributing directly to progress reviews and supporting their employees in the business.

Are there other alternative ways to get a degree?

In those areas not currently funded via the Apprenticeship Route in Wales, the University also offers a range of part-time degrees. These are developed with employers in such a way that enables employees to work and study part-time and for employers to input to the curricula design.

The Network 75 scheme is administered through the University of South Wales and provides an opportunity for students to undertake a recognised degree qualification whilst applying their knowledge directly in the workplace. Network 75 is a combined work and study route to a degree, through which trainees can gain both academic knowledge and qualifications alongside practical experience, making them industry-ready graduates.

It operates across a wide range of sectors, including Accounting and Finance, Business, Computing, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Law, Marketing, Quantity Surveying, Building Surveying, Civil Engineering, Construction Project Management, Human Resource Management, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Mechanical Engineering, and Real Estate.

If you want to find out more about our Degree Apprenticeships or N75 offer at USW you can contact us at:


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