Northern Ireland

Future-proof your workforce with a degree apprenticeship

Danielle McWall from Ulster University Business School
Danielle McWall from Ulster University Business School

ORGANISATIONS rethinking strategies to propel their businesses and workforces forward are increasingly recognising degree apprenticeships as a source for fresh talent and ideas.

Introduced in 2015 to address skills shortages, degree apprenticeships are work-based training programmes combining full-time paid work with part-time study at university.

Apprentices typically spend 80 per cent of their time at work gaining on-the-job experience and 20 per cent working towards a professional qualification from degree to master's level.

They aim to unlock new opportunities for employers to fill critical skills gaps both now and in the future.

At Ulster University Business School (UUBS), Danielle McWall, head of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, said the changing nature of work has spurred a renewed emphasis on education and skills and the apprenticeship system is gaining momentum.

"Businesses sector-wide are reassessing their talent strategies and the apprenticeship route is becoming a progressively more attractive and powerful way for employers to nurture requisite skills and widen their talent pool," she said.

"Apprenticeships offered at university level are an excellent alternative to full-time study, giving apprentices the chance to earn as they learn. The flexible and industry focused nature of our programmes enables organisations to use the apprenticeship model as a cost effective way to develop specialist skills, bridge higher level skills gaps, increase workforce diversity and improve organisational productivity through recruiting new talent or upskilling existing staff."

UUBS's portfolio of degree apprenticeships reflect emerging market trends and regional skills requirements, particularly in burgeoning sectors including accounting, business, finance, FinTech, professional services and shared services.

The BSc Hons Business Technology degree has been co-created with industry to meet the needs of a rapidly changing professional services sector, and the MSc Global Capital Markets programme designed to support the evolving financial services industry.

More recent developments include the BSc Hons Financial Technology, the BSc Hons Leading on Customer Operations programme and the part-time Business in Technology MSc, which all deliver on the need for higher level skills in growth sectors underpinning Northern Ireland's economic prosperity.

"Practical on-the-job experience coupled with the opportunity to practice and apply relevant theory, knowledge and understanding in real-time results in students making a valuable and immediate impact in the work environment," Ms McWall added.

"The evidence is hard to argue with and apprentices are leaving us with excellent top-end qualifications."

Ella McCann, a Business Technology graduate apprentice and full-time consultant with global management consulting firm, Deloitte, said degree apprenticeships offer the best of both worlds.

"While I always wanted to go to university, the opportunity to work for a company and gain real world experience whilst completing a degree level programme debt-free made complete sense to me," she said.

"What I loved most about this programme was that almost immediately I could directly apply the practical skills I learned in class to my work and to my clients. As the learning is directly relevant to my career, I'm still applying these skills today.

"The apprenticeship scheme has not only increased my confidence and skill set, but it has provided me with a clear route to a highly successful career in the professional services sector."

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