University of Leeds: Upskilling the nation’s workforce

From nursing to computer science, apprenticeships at the University of Leeds offer an alternative route into higher level qualifications.

The breadth of options on offer across the country is being highlighted as part of National Apprenticeships Week, which starts today.

The focus in 2022 continues last year’s theme: Building the Future – reflecting on how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.

The week, which runs until Sunday, brings together businesses and apprentices across the country to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, said: “The University of Leeds is committed to meeting the learning needs of our community. Our new University strategy promotes collaboration, equity and impact, and apprenticeships are an important part of those values.

“Apprenticeships are key to help widen participation and to ensure we provide learners and businesses with teaching excellence and innovation, further boosting students’ employability.”

Leeds offers a range of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships which enable learners to improve their academic and vocational skills, while achieving a university qualification.

Addressing skills gaps
The apprenticeship programme helps improve diversity while addressing local, regional and national skills gaps, and are offered by the University’s Lifelong Learning Centre, Schools of Computing and Healthcare, and through Leeds University Business School.

The part-time courses at Leeds are developed in partnership with businesses and organisations including the NHS and global professional services firm PwC, ensuring the content meets their needs while maintaining the University’s rigorous standards of research-based teaching.

Set to graduate in June 2022, the first cohort of apprentices in the jointly-developed PwC degree apprenticeship programme are already cashing in on benefits to their learning and career development.

It’s been a great way to get a step ahead in my future career.

Lauren Cooper, PwC apprentice
Launched in 2018, the programme is delivered by the University in partnership with PwC. Throughout the four-year programme, apprentices earn a BSc in Computer Science while building practical skills through work placements with the organisation.

Final year apprentice Lauren Cooper said: “The degree apprenticeship programme is a life-changing opportunity that has really set me up for my future.

“When I graduate in June, I’ll come out with loads of valuable experience, financial independence, and will be ready to hit the ground running in a tech role – it’s been a great way to get a step ahead in my future career.

“It also really opened my eyes to the possibilities to explore within computer science. I didn’t appreciate how broad the field was, but through my placements I’ve learned how businesses use tech to solve challenges in creative ways.”

In addition to helping shape her future career, Lauren said the programme has also been an invaluable platform for her as a woman in tech.

“About a third of the women in my cohort at PwC are women, which is much higher than the industry average.

“I found PwC’s culture to be very supportive – they really want to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM and create opportunities and networks to nurture you and develop your skills.”

Read more about Lauren’s apprenticeship journey.

Delivering real benefits
Though in its early stages, the programme is also delivering noticeable benefits to teams across PwC.

Cathy Baxter, Head of Talent Engagement at PwC, said: “We started working with Leeds on the programme six years ago and really wanted it to be a win-win for everyone involved.

“The programme is an opportunity for us to build an early talent pipeline of technologists coming into PwC while also levelling the playing field and expanding what tech talent looks like.”

The programme is an opportunity for us to build an early talent pipeline of technologists … while also levelling the playing field and expanding what tech talent looks like.

Cathy Baxter, Head of Talent Engagement, PwC
Leeds’s apprenticeships improve the knowledge and skills of a business’s workforce, working with its partners to shape courses and address an organisation’s needs, enabling high-achieving apprentices to gain a foundation, undergraduate or Master’s degree, and/or an apprenticeship qualification from the University.

Integrating university and workplace-based education and training has benefits for the business and the apprentices: skills of staff are developed to meet business priorities, and the apprentices benefit from a sponsored university education while earning a salary.

For businesses – why take part?
Apprenticeship schemes are created in partnership with businesses to support the needs of employers and employees.

The courses align with the apprenticeship standards designed by employers to ensure those taking part develop the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours.

Unlike traditional degrees, apprentices are nominated by employers, who will pay their salary and training fees using the apprenticeship levy, rather than applying as individuals.

Employers can use the apprenticeship levy to develop the skills of their workforce through flexible programmes which target business priorities. The University is registered to offer apprenticeships to levy and non-levy paying organisations.

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