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A-levels 2022: University Technical College leavers choose degree apprenticeships over traditional HE courses

Students leaving University Technical Colleges with top A-level and vocational results this summer are opting to enrol on apprenticeship courses with small businesses and multinational corporations rather than university-based courses, a leading education charity has found.

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which supports around 50 technical education-focused University Technical Colleges, has also highlighted the successes UTC leavers have seen getting into top Russell Group universities.

This is after widespread expectations that students would have a tougher time this year getting universities, especially top-tier institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Warwick.

Half of the 128 Year 13s leaving Ron Dearing UTC in Hull this year are taking up apprenticeships with the ‘outstanding’ school’s employer partners, which include KCOM, RB, Siemens, Smith+Nephew, and Spencer Group.

Energy Coast UTC student Chloe Bell is progressing onto a level 6 quantity surveying apprenticeship with global engineering company Mott MacDonald after passing her engineering BTEC and digital engineering diploma and earning a distinction for her enterprise and entrepreneurship BTEC.

After receiving her results, Chloe said she had chosen to take up a degree apprenticeship as:

“It is a different opportunity for people in my area, Cumbria. In a lot of mainstream schools, university is pushed for, rather than degree apprenticeships. But over the years I’ve been at the UTC, they pushed us to consider degree apprenticeships.
“I would definitely want more young people to do degree apprenticeships. I’ve now got the chance to get the learning while starting my career.”

A new generation of workers will be starting design engineer apprenticeships with Midlands-based engineering firm Couch Perry Wilkes after six Year 13s from the UTC WMG Academy Solihull secured jobs with the firm.

One of them, Dylan Woolgar who will be starting a level 4 apprenticeship next month, explained his journey to an apprenticeship:

“I was looking at studying civil engineering at university. But looking at it, I thought it wasn’t for me. I prefer to learn more actively than sitting in a room being lectured for hours.
“I think it would be better if more people did degree apprenticeships. The student loan doesn’t come into it, and you get a wage.”

UTC leavers have also opted for apprenticeships in car production and defence and national security – helping keep the economy and the country safe: WMG Academy Coventry student Daniel Baynton, 18, has secured an apprenticeship at Roke Manor Research focusing on defence and national security after achieving three A* grades at A-level. Tyler Griffiths, also from Coventry, is progressing to a CAD technician apprenticeship at Jaguar Land Rover.

The significant number of UTC leavers opting for apprenticeships comes after the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Clare Marchant said school leavers have shown “massive interest” in apprenticeships this year.

UTC students across the country were among those receiving the first T-level results today, after the flagship two-year qualification launched in 2020.

At The Leigh UTC in Kent, digital production, design and development T-level student Lewis Gibbons has achieved a Pass and is off to take a degree apprenticeship with a London-based IT company.
Lewis praised the industry placement T-level students have to complete for their course, after completing his with Balfour Beatty, saying:

“This has taught me a lot on how I can better solve problems in the workplace.
“The demands and pace of work along with the commute were difficult at times. But I did enjoy my time that I had with the company and appreciate how it did open the door for further placements for me, where I can apply my skills to be more proactive and better drive my personal development.”

Jack Williams, also of The Leigh UTC, commented after receiving his T Level results:

“Even though there were a few challenges, I really enjoyed working with the team. I feel my confidence has greatly improved after this work placement along with my work ethic and the way I present myself whether that be professionally or socially. This ranges from the way I structure my emails to even just how I talk to others in a professional setting.”

UTC students have also secured places at top-class universities: Kelham Hillier, 18, has this year become the first of Ron Dearing UTC’s students to secure a place at the University of Cambridge.

Oluwafemi Olamide and Ethan Greasley will both be studying electronic engineering at the University of Warwick after earning ABB and A*A*D*.

Commons Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon MP commented:

“I have been a great supporter of UTCs since successfully campaigning to have one in my own Harlow constituency and it is great to see such positive results for pupils across the country.
“The hard work of students and teaching and support staff in achieving this year’s set of excellent results is clear and supports my dream to have a UTC set up in every town.
“The importance of vocational and technical education in helping to rocket boost skills in the UK is unquestionable and I am delighted to see so many pupils choose to undertake a degree apprenticeship. I have said many times that this pathway enables students to earn while they learn, avoid student debt, and will result in a good, and well-paid job at the end of the course.
“I wish to thank the teaching and support staff for their heroic efforts over the past few years in helping their students get to this point and I want to congratulate every student on their results today.”

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell commented:

“The great sweep of UTC students taking up apprenticeships up and down the country demonstrates the strength of our technical education provision and how each school’s leaders have exactly pinpointed their local industry needs.
“We are also greatly encouraged by the success which UTCs have seen with vocational courses such as BTECs. We believe tried-and-trusted applied generals can co-exist, alongside A-levels and other VTQs such as T-levels, to deliver the sort of life-changing results we have seen today.”