Degree Apprentices share their stories of life-changing opportunity 


Employers and universities from across the UK came together on 12th June at IBM Southbank to celebrate the impact of employer-accredited Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeships: life-changing opportunity for individuals, an influx of much needed talent for employers, and new ways to generate economic value for universities.

The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the panel of four degree apprentices, whose personal stories moved and inspired the 130-strong audience.

–        Celine Williams talked about her transition from a teenage hairdresser without direction to a fulfilling job she loves in a company she loves, through her Tech Industry Gold digital degree apprenticeships with IBM and Exeter University.

–        Callum Gunston explained why he chose a degree apprenticeship with small company Quicksilva over a full-time computer science degree, and how the support from his employer and his tutors at the University of Winchester has given him the best possible start to his career.

–        Louise Bagshaw showed how valuable a degree apprenticeship can be further into a career. As a senior manager with 11 years’ experience in Asda’s technology department, she was unsure how to progress until offered the opportunity of a degree apprenticeship. Her course, in partnership with Leeds Beckett University, filled knowledge gaps and increased her skills and confidence, resulting in a promotion to senior director.

–        Perhaps the most moving story of all was from Sabreen Anwar of Lloyds Banking Group. Brought up in a community where she said girls were not allowed to go to university, she left school at 16 with no qualifications and ended up with no money and homeless. Fortunate enough to get a job with Lloyds Banking Group, she started to create a new life for herself. Recognising her potential, her employer supported her in getting the qualifications she needed to embark on a digital degree apprenticeship with Manchester Metropolitan University. Sabreen shared her happiness at now being financially secure, qualified and fulfilling her career potential.

Appreciation for the support from employers and universities was a strong theme: apprentices explained how important their mentors and tutors have been, and described how their 30-strong tutor groups and personal relationship with tutors were the envy of their peers on full time degrees in lecture theatres of 300 students. The degree apprentices also talked about the importance of gaining a degree, both as a passport to opportunity in a sector where a degree is expected for so many jobs and as a respected qualification in their communities. All said they were so grateful for the opportunities they have been given that they now make time outside of their work and study to share their stories and encourage others make the most of their capability through degree apprenticeships.

Employers and universities discuss the value of the unique Tech Industry Gold community  

The employer and Higher Education speakers were full of praise for the achievements of their degree apprentices and the value of working together in the rich community of universities offering Tech Industry Gold accredited programmes and employers supporting them.

–        IBM CEO Bill Kelleher explained that, in common with other leading companies, IBM will only use digital degree apprenticeships which are accredited as Tech Industry Gold, as they can buy with confidence knowing that employers across the economy have approved them for content, quality and employer-focused delivery.

–        Simon Bolton, CIO of Jaguar Land Rover talked about how much he values the capabilities coming into his workforce through Tech Industry Gold degree apprentices.

–        Encouraging social mobility and improving the gender balance were key objectives for Accenture’s involvement, explained Damian Corneal, who also talked about the value of working with employers across all sectors with a common need for digital skills.

–        Damian Jacobs of Lloyds Banking Group told of the changes the degree apprenticeship has made to recruitment practices, enabling them to move from competency-based to strength-based interviews, and they are pleased degree apprenticeships are attracting people who will become the first in their family with a degree. Many of the employers agreed they can now recruit based on aptitude and a passion for technology, rather than existing qualifications and skills.

–        Andy Cripps shared Quicksilva’s experience as a 20-person SME, finding their university partner, Winchester, extremely responsive and willing to make changes to best meet their needs. Andy particularly valued the emphasis on interpersonal skills and project management, as well as the fact that apprentices are quickly applying their knowledge in real life environments with industry standard technologies. Building on this, David Seddon of Blackpool and The Fylde College gave an example of one of their degree apprentices receiving a £1,000 bonus from their employer because of the substantial amount of money the company saved as a result of the apprentice’s work.

Higher Education Institutions described the value of offering industry accredited programmes, including their understanding of employer needs, the depth of relationships forged, and their ability to transfer their learning into full time degree courses.

–        Raheel Nawaz from Manchester Metropolitan talked about the unique experience of working with employers round the same table to co-design, co-develop and co-deliver Tech Industry Gold programmes, and pointed out the need to fully take on the importance of behaviours, not just technical knowledge, set out in the standards. He also discussed the role of degree apprenticeships in the future of higher education and the erosion of the old distinctions between ‘being a scholar’ or ‘being a professional in industry’.

–        Harry Goldingay emphasised the value of the Tech Industry Gold community and the support Aston University gets as a result. He described how a key win of being involved was the depth of relationship with employers, including the expansion from degree apprenticeships into research partnerships and vice versa.

–        Winchester’s Stella McKnight shared her university’s pride in the graduation of their first 40 degree apprentices, with a cohort from companies as varied as CGI, Fujitsu and local SMEs. She felt that being part of the community had helped them create a high-quality programme that other employers want.

–        David Seddon from Blackpool and The Fylde College explained that, by co-creating a programme with employers as part of the Tech Industry Gold community, they had confidence that by the time it was complete, it would truly meet employer requirements and as a result would be successfully accredited.

Higher Education panellists also talked about the importance of the regular calls and communications run by Tech Partnership Degrees for Tech Industry Gold partners, which keep them updated on evolving policy and standards development plans, enable them to have a collective voice, and give access to expertise on standards and their implementation. They felt the IT sector is leading the way for all degree apprenticeships in the way employers are collaborating and working in partnership with universities.

Recognition for degree apprentices

Employers were full of praise for their degree apprentices, with many talking about their commitment, motivation and contribution to the business being far in advance of what they had expected. Called out for certificates of special recognition were degree apprentices employed by companies across the economy:

–        Alice Ramsey, from HMRC and QA

–        Aryana Sadeghian, from Accenture and the University of East London

–        Beth Harper, from the Met Office and Exeter University

–        Bradley Carr, from Airbus and Weston College

–        Charlie Deller, from Domino Printing and Anglia Ruskin University

–        Dobromir Marinov, from MSX International and the University of Essex

–        Dominic Sheratte, from AstraZeneca and Manchester Metropolitan University

–        Ellie Everett from CGI and the University of Winchester

–        Emily Baldwin, from Trade Interchange and Teesside University

–        Jack Kay, from RCU Ltd and Blackpool and the Fylde College

–        Jake Vernon, from SSE and the University of Chichester

–        Jamie Meininger, from IBM and Queen Mary University, London

–        Jenny Graham- Jones, from HMRC and Northumbria University

–        Lillie Tedder, from BT and Ravensbourne University

–        Louis O’Nions, from Accenture and the University of Sunderland

–        Louis Toh, from McDonalds and the University of West London

–        Louise Bagshaw, from Asda and Leeds Beckett University

–        Megan Williamson, from Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Hallam University

–        Michael Conroy, from Cap Gemini and Aston University

–        Nasar Khan, from Vauxhall Motors and the University of Hertfordshire

–        Rebecca Redmond, from Ford Motor Company and the University of Greenwich

–        Yuliery Perez, from Santander and BPP University


Special thanks are due to Phil Smith, CBE, who acted as Master of Ceremonies, and to IBM who kindly hosted this special event.

Find out more about degree apprenticeships

View photos of the Degree Apprenticeship event