A partnership between the university’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Capgemini, a global consulting, technology and outsourcing company, the programme revolutionises the way young people develop high level skills through apprenticeships, offering them the chance to gain a degree while employed in industry, with their tuition fees paid by their employer.
After four-and-a-half years of study while employed, the first 11 apprentices have all achieved a BSc (honours) in Digital and Technology Solutions – with seven awarded first class and the others second class degrees.
The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Anne Milton, said today:
“I am delighted to offer my own personal congratulations to the UK’s first ever degree apprentice graduates. The hard work and commitment involved is truly admirable and highlights the opportunities apprenticeships can bring.
“I hope this will encourage more people to consider a degree apprenticeship. It is a great way to earn while you learn at some of the UK’s top universities and to go on to secure a rewarding job. Well done to all the students and also congratulations to both Aston University and Capgemini for breaking new ground."
Today’s ceremony was attended by Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, who commented: “I am absolutely delighted to attend the graduation of the first cohort of degree apprentices in the country, for what is a momentous occasion.
“Degree apprenticeships are a significant step forward, providing the opportunity to develop and nurture talented individuals, and are a key part of our apprenticeships reform programme - with the ambition of creating three million quality apprenticeships by 2020 - and includes apprenticeships at higher levels, in more occupations and sectors.
“The 11 degree apprentices graduating highlight the significance of higher level apprenticeships and the benefits to apprentices and their employer. Capgemini must be extremely proud of their successes.”
Professor Ian Nabney, Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University, added: “Degree apprenticeships are a valuable option to applicants whose learning style is less suited to a traditional on-campus study route. The difference in delivery, allows them to apply their learning in the workplace rather than the classroom. This offers those with the right skills and aptitudes a challenging but rewarding route to graduate level jobs, while their academic achievement is recognised as being at the same high level as a traditionally-earned degree.”
Ruth South, Head of Graduate and Apprenticeship Programmes at Capgemini, said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate 11 of our apprentices on becoming the first graduates of an industry sponsored digital and technology solutions degree – it’s a fantastic achievement highlighting their commitment and landmark not only for us, but for the digital industry as a whole.
“The grades they have achieved are remarkable, with 100% gaining a 2:2 or above and 64% achieving a 1st, which is more than double the Aston-on-campus average. This truly demonstrates that a degree apprenticeship delivers outstanding results.
“This programme is one of many educational initiatives we have in place in our efforts to create pathways to employment for young people of all backgrounds and develop leaders of the future to plug the digital skills gap. Over the course of this year we will be hiring 100 new degree apprentices in a variety of roles and locations, as we look to build on our hard work to support and inspire young people and unlock their potential, today and for the future.”
Graduate 24-year-old James Gee, of Charlton, Worcestershire, said: “I checked the ‘find an apprenticeship’ site on gov.uk and the description was exactly what I wanted: a sponsored degree programme as a software engineer that would allow me to earn, learn and work all at the same time.
“Every day is different but I always learn something new. I build complex system integrations, web applications and anything that involves custom software. Among the highpoints of the last five years has been winning West Midlands Higher Apprentice of the Year, watching a user of assistive technologies struggle to use an application we built, writing a script that fixed many of the issues and watching her joy at how much easier things were – and a four week holiday in Australia that was only affordable because of my apprenticeship!”
James Jones, aged 25, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, said: “I’ve gained the salary of a graduate years before I would have graduated taking a traditional bricks and mortar degree. I haven’t paid tuition fees but have been paid a salary to attend virtual lectures and tutorials and to apply this learning instantly in my role as a software developer.
“From the very start of the programme I’ve been working on designing and building software for high profile clients around the country.”
The work-based degree apprenticeship programme is a Tech Partnership-led initiative developed with the Government to enable young people to achieve a degree whilst employed in industry, with their tuition fees paid by the employer.
A further 240 apprentices are currently on the Capgemini Degree Apprenticeship Programme with Aston University and will graduate over the next five years. As apprentices with Capgemini, their roles may include software developer, technical applications consultant, insights and data consultant or cyber security.