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Government backed initiative to grow degree apprenticeships launched at Middlesex

Middlesex awarded contract for social work and environmental health degree apprenticeships programme to plug critical shortage in London and the South East

Middlesex University is delighted that it has been awarded a new contract by the Office for Students (OfS) to grow degree apprenticeships for social workers and environmental health practitioners.

This contract is part of the OfS announcement today that it will invest  £12 million to increase the number of Level 6 degree apprenticeship courses and places available in English higher education.This is the result of the first round of a competitive bidding process, as part of the OfS’s £40 million degree apprenticeships fund, which will provide support for 205 Level 6 degree apprenticeship programmes at 51 higher education providers, including Middlesex University.

Middlesex will work with local authorities in London to increase the number of social workers and environmental health practitioners (EHPs) through developing and providing degree apprenticeship programmes.

There is a critical shortage of social workers and EHPs in London and the South East and this initiative is vital to plugging this gap. Middlesex will work closely with local authorities to further develop its Social Worker and EHP degree apprenticeship programmes to ensure they are co-designed to meet their needs. The initiative aims to provide opportunities for apprentices to start their degree apprenticeships from September 2024 and through 2025 and beyond.

Commenting on the award of the contract, Darryll Bravenboer, Professor of Higher Education and Skills at Middlesex, said:

“Middlesex has a strong track record of training social workers and environmental health practitioners. We will use our expertise in developing innovative degree apprenticeship programmes that prepare much needed professionals to work in both of these fields to meet the specific needs of local authority employers.

“These roles are critical to public health and social care and it is essential that we increase opportunities for people to access these professional careers. The critical shortages that we face in these key public sector areas affects us all and by working with local authorities to grow the number of degree apprentices, we are seeking to deliver on our civic duty as a University and play a key role in enhancing the public good.”

"Middlesex has a strong track record of training social workers and environmental health practitioners. We will use our expertise in developing innovative degree apprenticeship programmes that prepare much needed professionals to work in both of these fields to meet the specific needs of local authority employers."  Professor Darryll Bravenboer, Middlesex University

There is a major shortage and high demand for social workers with 17,300 employed by local authorities, 2,000 in the independent sector and 3,300 in the NHS. Higher paid and professional roles within adult and children’s services require a professional qualification, limiting career progression opportunities for those lacking such qualifications. The Department for Education has identified the need to recruit up to 500 social workers through the level 6 Social Worker degree apprenticeship, a route into social care for non-graduates, career changers or those with valuable experience with children and families as well as those with traditional qualifications.

Middlesex’s Social worker degree apprenticeship programme is accredited by Social Work England (SWE). The University has worked with Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust, and local authorities in Haringey, Brent, Hounslow, Newham and Greenwich but the OfS contract will enable the University to expand the range of employers and grow numbers of degree apprentices to meet the significant need across London.

EHPs work in areas such as environmental protection, food safety and food standards, health within the armed services, housing, occupational health and safety, pollution control and public health. However, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) state significant difficulties in recruitment of EHPs exist in local authorities. Nine out of ten environmental health teams used agency staff (2022), while 56% of local authorities reported vacancies left unfilled for six months or more. One of the key routes into this profession is through apprenticeships, however in 2020 70% of local authorities did not take on any apprentices due to funding and capacity to mentor. This has had a negative effect, for example nearly 40,000 businesses have never had a food hygiene inspection.

Degree apprenticeships for the public sector have potential to open doors to professional careers for a wider range of people. At least 66% of apprentices at Middlesex have parents from non-professional, non-higher education backgrounds. Using degree apprenticeships to increase social mobility into public sector professions is an objective shared by Middlesex University and the UK Government.

John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:

"Degree apprenticeships can provide a beneficial alternative route for students in higher education, which bridges the spaces between traditional study and the workplace. Our initial £12 million investment will support universities and colleges to accelerate their efforts to grow and develop these courses.

"We will invest up to £40 million over the next two academic years to increase access and provision of degree apprenticeships. This investment will encourage universities and colleges to strive to tailor and enhance their degree apprenticeship programmes to ensure graduates from all backgrounds have the skills, knowledge and experience they need to thrive in their futures."

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, Robert Halfon added:

‘Degree apprenticeships are a crucial rung on the ladder of opportunity and an important instrument of social justice. By offering people from all backgrounds the chance to gain valuable workplace experience while studying for a degree, they open doors that might otherwise have been closed.

"I am delighted that the institutions awarded a portion of this £40 million will not only be expanding the number of degree apprenticeships offered but have also demonstrated their commitment to boosting access and participation and prioritising equality of opportunity.

‘Whether it is providing more nurses for our NHS or helping get more women in engineering and construction, I look forward to seeing how these projects help more people climb the ladder of opportunity, address skills gaps and help grow our economy.’

Find out more about apprenticeships at MDX

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