£250k grant for University of Winchester to boost social mobility through degree apprenticeships

9 Oct 2017

The University of Winchester has been awarded £250,000 for an innovative project which aims to widen the choice of degree apprenticeship programmes in line with growing employer demand and to attract applicants from more diverse backgrounds.

The University emerged as one of 27 successful projects to receive a share of £4.9m funding being awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to universities and colleges, the Department for Education has announced. The Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund supports the development of new degree apprenticeships for students starting in September 2018.

Designed by employers, higher education providers and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships support the development of high level skills, providing an alternative route to a traditional academic degree and to a career. Bringing together higher education study with paid work, degree apprentices spend part of their time in study and part with their employer.

Winchester's Social Mobility Pipeline to Degree Apprenticeships project will link employers who are seeking higher skills and a broader pool of applicants with people who are not currently choosing to study on a degree apprenticeship programme. It will focus initially on care leavers; women aspiring to enter traditionally male-dominated occupations and leadership roles; women entrepreneurs, and under-achieving males from white British low socio-economic groups.

"We are delighted to receive funding for this project which will be transformational in a number of ways, most importantly by producing a pipeline that connects two main strands of government policy: degree apprenticeships and improving social mobility," said Professor Neil Marriott, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Winchester.

"At Winchester, we have a strong track record in delivering employer-led degree apprenticeships programmes, as well as supporting the educational progress of hard to reach groups including young carers and children from military families. These strengths make us ideally placed to help open up Degree Apprenticeships to a more diverse range of new high-level apprentices."

The project will see a number of support activities put in place including information events, the development of online resources and guides for people working with young people and a 'step up to degree apprenticeships' programme for young people.

"The government has earmarked degree apprenticeships as a crucial means to ensure the higher skill needs of the economy are met, through raising the number of people given the opportunity to gain industry skills and university standard qualifications. As part of this, it is vital that employers not only have more choice of degree apprenticeships but also of applicants from more diverse backgrounds who can help to fill critical skills gaps," said David Way CBE, former CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service and Visiting Professor at the University of Winchester.

"An important benefit of the project is that the University's new Centre for Apprenticeship Research and Knowledge Exchange will be a centre for excellence in understanding and sharing knowledge and experience nationally about improving social mobility into degree apprenticeships."

A key part of project is to increase opportunities for women entrepreneurs with support from partner NatWest. In 2015 NatWest and the University of Winchester Business School jointly sponsored and launched the first hub providing women entrepreneurs with access to a regional ecosystem of partners, customers and suppliers and business innovation, training and advice.

Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise at NatWest, said: "Research has shown that women are less likely than men to think they have the skills and strong professional networks needed to start a business, and they are more likely to be prevented from starting a business by a fear of failure. Many women also believe there is a lack of diverse female role models to inspire businesswomen and demonstrate that entrepreneurial success is attainable.

"NatWest is delighted to collaborate closely with the University of Winchester Business School in designing and delivering this initiative which will help prepare many more female entrepreneurs for the future. We will bring into play the expertise of our 400 externally-accredited Women in Business specialists to offer female entrepreneurs access to a wide network of like-minded professionals, as well as venues for events and support to promote the programme. It is a great opportunity for women running their own businesses to gain the business skills and the confidence to fuel growth."

The University head up a new collaboration between private and public sector partners to deliver the project. Partners include universities and colleges, local authorities, schools, employers, the M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and education business partnerships.

These awards form the second year of the £10m, two-year Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund programme. In the first year, £5 million was awarded to 18 projects involving 45 higher education institutions and further education colleges.

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