Young people will soon be able to search and apply for apprenticeships alongside degrees on UCAS, education chiefs have announced today.
The Department for Education and UCAS said the service will be expanded this autumn so people can see “more personalised options” that will include apprenticeships, allowing them to see different pathways into careers side-by-side.
From autumn 2024, students will then be able to apply for apprenticeships alongside the usual undergraduate degree applications.
According to UCAS, around half of students that register on the site say they would consider an apprenticeship but not enough vacancies are being advertised.
Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said: “Presenting students with all their choices in one place will not only transform the apprenticeship offering but create real parity by putting these options side-by-side with undergraduate courses. “
She said that with almost half of UCAS users interested in the apprenticeship route, which equates to “hundreds of thousands of potential apprentices,” the service would be able to meet that demand by “showcasing all post-secondary opportunities”.
The UCAS service will share vacancy information on the government find an apprenticeship website which already advertises vacancies, the DfE confirmed.
It said that employers will be able to manage applications for their vacancies through the service as well.
UCAS is not receiving any additional funding to deliver the service, FE Week has learned.
However, the DfE is keen that as many apprenticeship vacancies as possible at all levels are advertised on the UCAS hub, meaning it will not just be degree apprenticeships advertised.
It comes as part of a wider ambition to develop a “one-stop-shop” for education and training options that will include apprenticeships, T Levels, skills bootcamps, higher technical qualifications or degree apprenticeships.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has been tasked with mapping career routes to feed into that.
Announcing the news in National Apprenticeship Week, education secretary Gillian Keegan said: “I hope more people learn about the incredible opportunities available in everything from engineering to accountancy, healthcare to gaming software development. Whatever career goals you aspire to, they can be achieved through an apprenticeship which go up to masters degree level.”
The news has been welcomed by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, whose chief executive Jane Hickie explained that accessing information on apprenticeships could be “confusing and complicated at times”.
“This could be a gamechanger, and alongside an enhanced talent finder function for employers, is much needed,” she said. “It also shows how apprenticeships are a really valuable option for learners and employers alike.”
AELP has urged training providers and employers to work with UCAS to showcase their opportunities and ensure the service becomes “a real success”.
Vanessa Wilson, chief executive of the University Alliance said that UCAS is the “natural choice” to deliver information and opportunities on apprenticeships.
But the Association of School and College Leaders warned that, while welcoming the steps being taken to include apprenticeships on UCAS, the “fragmented system” of careers advice in schools and colleges needed to be addressed.
Kevin Gilmartin, post-16 specialist at ASCL said: “In order to make this work there needs to be more resources and support for schools and colleges to be able to deliver guidance from expert careers advisers who are familiar with the complex apprenticeships landscape.”
UCAS had previously said it would act as a “digital Baker clause” to ensure students were aware of apprenticeships as a potential option for their future, as the government looks to beef up student awareness of options beyond A-levels and university.
The more stringent Baker clause measures came into effect last month, which requires secondary schools to provide at least six encounters with further education providers.
Government data on apprenticeship starts published last month indicated that new starts fell by 6 per cent overall in the first quarter of 2022/23 compared to the same time last year.
However, degree apprenticeship take-up continued to grow, rising by 10 per cent for that period compared to 2021/22.
How will the website work?
UCAS has confirmed apprenticeships vacancies will not just be an add-on with a link at the bottom of undergraduate course pages but will be fully integrated into its website.
For instance, the personalised ‘for you’ section of the website will show apprenticeship and undergraduate options for the location a student puts in.
The ‘career quiz’ page which helps students identify potential careers that may be suited to them will feature information on the different routes into those careers, while the ‘employer profiles’ pages will include vacancies those employers have. Search functions will also include both degree and apprenticeship options.
Lindsay Conroy, national apprenticeship programme lead at UCAS, told FE Week it will have a number of algorithms to personalise the service for students, for example showing opportunities in and around a certain town or city a user specifies, or showing the various apprenticeship or undergraduate routes in a specific sector, such as engineering.
“It will absolutely feel like any other journey on UCAS when it exists, the idea being is that what we create is if somebody can experience something as a potential undergraduate they can experience the same or the equivalent as the potential apprentice,” Conroy said. “It might be a different journey but still be an equivalent experience.”
For employers, the site will pull in data and vacancies from the government’s ‘find an apprenticeship’ website, although employers will also be able to directly advertise their vacancies on the UCAS website.
Conroy said that more than 70 per cent of the employers it spoke to would welcome a university-style application service for apprenticeships.
She added: “We want to get to a point where a student has a profile and they are able to utilise that profile to populate an application, and then that application gets passed to that employer.”