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christine hodgson careers a levels capgemini
Christine Hodgson

Today, Thursday 15 August, will be one of the most important days in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people across the country. The nervous wait will end as students discover their A level results at the culmination of at least two years’ hard work. It’s a moment that could shape the course of the rest of their careers, writes Christine Hodgson.

Over the last few months, students have been weighing up the options and making decisions about the next steps in their life journey. But this year, more and more ambitious students will choose a different path to the traditional route of studying full-time at university.

Thousands across the country will instead decide to combine work and study and take on the increasingly popular challenge of a degree apprenticeship, an exciting option which offers an accelerated technical route for young people and much needed skills for our economy.

Launched by the Government in 2015, degree apprenticeships are growing rapidly. In the first year, there were 700 starts. This figure grew nearly tenfold to 6,300 in 2017/18 and already, the numbers of degree apprenticeship starts have doubled for 2018/19 to 12,700, based on 10 months’ data.

My own company, Capgemini, was delighted to be one of the first to offer degree apprenticeships and we currently have nearly 290 apprentices on our programmes. This year we will recruit over a hundred more.  

Degree apprenticeships are designed to propel students into the world of work and fill high-level skills gaps. Created through partnerships between employers and universities and colleges, they combine full-time paid work and part-time university study - apprentices graduate with a full degree, having earned a salary and gained invaluable on-the-job training and employers benefit from the skills of talented young people with a thirst for work and knowledge.

For many businesses, degree apprenticeships are now a key part of their recruitment plans and as a result they are available in a range of sectors from aerospace engineering, financial services to digital industries.

As well as holding employment status and receiving a wage throughout the course, an apprentice's tuition fees and training costs are settled between their education institution and employer. The model gives an opportunity to talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may be deterred from studying a traditional full-time programme by high tuition fees and student debt.

As a country, we need to get technical education right. This is a huge challenge, and there are no easy answers. The structure and funding of technical education is a key part of this but it is also as much about winning hearts and minds – of young people, of parents, of teachers.

As well as being Chairman of Capgemini in the UK, I am also Chairman of The Careers & Enterprise Company, the organisation tasked with supporting schools and colleges to deliver world class careers support to young people.

Careers education across the country is improving thanks to the hard work of schools, colleges, employers and providers. We are getting better as a nation at preparing young people for the fast-changing world of work and helping young people to find the right starting route for them, whether that’s college, university, work or combining study and employment in a degree apprenticeship.

If we’re going to excel as a country in technical education, we need to make sure we’re thinking about what’s the best outcome for each young person, rather than holding up one particular route as the gold standard.

As schools, parents and employers, we need to get involved and get informed, to make sure we’re supporting young people to make the right choices. The explosion in popularity of degree apprenticeships shows we can get this right.