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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Fiona Vlemmiks & Shelina Begum

Being paid while gaining a university degree is helping Greater Manchester firms recruit future talent

Bruntwood apprentice Andrew Bradshaw has the best of both worlds.

Two years into his five-year degree apprenticeship and Bradshaw is already perceived as an invaluable part of the Bruntwood team.

Bradshaw was selected alongside Elliot Dagnall as the first degree-level apprentices at the Manchester property giant, and the experience has been hugely positive for all parties.

He will gain a Bsc in chartered surveying from the University of Salford - which launched its successful degree apprenticeship programme in 2016 – on completion.

For Bradshaw a degree apprentices is providing a golden opportunity to earn while he learns while for employers such as Bruntwood it’s transforming the way they meet the future skills needs. This kind of training is having a significant impact on sectors with skills shortages, such as digital technology, nursing, policing, and teaching.

Bradshaw says he was initially lured by the prospect of earning and securing vital on-the-job experience while simultaneously studying for a degree.

“I thought that gaining five year’s industry experience before I’d even graduated would put me in quite a good position,” he said.

“I knew I wanted to start earning money but I also wanted to gain a degree so this was the best of both worlds – I have been very lucky.”

Jack was due to start a degree in film production at Salford University (Mark Waugh)

The University of Salford degree apprenticeship programme commenced with 16 apprentices.

It now has more than 700 apprentices working with around 150 employers, such as Bruntwood, both large and small.

Paul Ward, director of international and regional development at the University of Salford, says the degree apprenticeships are a modern-day interpretation of the university’s industrial heritage.

“Our founding institution was the Royal Technical Institute of Salford which was established in 1896 to provide the skilled workforce to power the Industrial Revolution,” he said.

“Combining on-the-job training with academic education, today’s degree apprenticeships are enabling employers to attract and retain talent and cost- effectively up-skill their workforces.

“We can tailor our programmes to business needs.

“We are hoping to take on our 1000th apprentice this year.”

The varied degree apprenticeship programme is open to both college graduates as well as those looking for a career change.

Bradshaw had to attend an assessment centre and formal interview at Bruntwood before being offered a place. He is enthusiastic about the future.

“In the next part of the apprenticeship, I am looking forward to more responsibility and getting bigger jobs,” he said.

“At Bruntwood you get the opportunity to move around the company and broaden your experience within different teams.

“I’ve already gained invaluable project management skills and had increasing responsibility and real experience of being in a working environment.

“I’m establishing myself within the team I work in and I’d love to be offered a job at the end of the apprenticeship.”

Adele Weaver, head of learning and talent development at Bruntwood, has been leading the businesses’ apprenticeship programme since joining the company in 2017.

The company also has 40 non-degree apprentices, in 16 disciplines around the business, in an effort to nurture and develop the next generation of property professionals.

“People are at the heart of every decision made at Bruntwood,” she said.

“When we heard about degree apprenticeships it was an absolute no brainer.

“We were originally going to recruit for one role, but when we saw the quality of the candidates, we decided to recruit for two!

“We have enjoyed a long and great history of placements with students at the University of Salford and we are delighted to be supporting people from the local area.

“Working with students and young people means we’re always going to get new perspectives and fresh ideas into the business.

“Bruntwood has a culture of ‘growing our own’ and even though that can take a few years to yield results, we are prepared invest this time.”

Weaver reveals that Bruntwood now has four degree-level apprentices and plans to take on two more due to the immense business benefits it has enjoyed.

“The speed at which the apprentices grow is mind blowing,” she said. “In two short years we have two very capable surveyors.

“We don’t label them “the degree apprentices”, they are simply surveyors in the surveying team.

“Andrew has already changed teams once and therefore developed a new set of skills.

“That’s the kind of agility and flexibility we need in our business.”

Scott Bell, apprenticeship programme manager at Laing O’Rourke agrees.

“We see degree apprenticeships as an essential part of our skills pipeline, allowing us to develop the next generation of formally educated and occupationally competent professionals to support our organisation, and the industry,” he said.

“We have been looking at degree apprenticeships since the publication of the Richard review and commencement of the apprenticeship reform.

“We have also recently led the on the Construction Quantity Surveying apprenticeship standard which is now approved for delivery.”

He continued: “Apprenticeship routes provide a structured

programme with mix of part time formal education, aligned with real on the job experience.

“Progress of this is monitored throughout, by the employer and training provider to ensure the apprentices development is supported at every stage and they are ready for their end point assessment.

“We feel this is a fantastic way to become an accomplished professional.”

Helping to deliver the skilled workforce of the future, the University of Salford is now expanding its portfolio of degree apprenticeship programmes – which already covers property and construction, healthcare, science, digital and technology, engineering and business and management.

“We have seen a particularly rapid increase in uptake of apprenticeships in the health and construction sectors,” says Ward.

“Degree apprenticeships are among one of the best kept secrets in universities.”

Ward says apprenticeships of all levels should remain a valued and viable option for employers of all sizes and students of all ages and abilities.

“Greater Manchester has a vision to lead the way in apprenticeship employment, providing quality opportunities for learning and development.

“The Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) approach focuses on a number of key areas including supporting SMEs, maximising the levy impact, and tackling skills gaps.

“Outside of London, Greater Manchester has the highest number of businesses and jobs and while the economy has grown, productivity and our skills base have not kept pace which opens doors for higher and degree apprenticeships to help close the skills gaps.”

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