Engineering employers rush to use ‘best of both’ Mastership to optimise Apprenticeship Levy

Professor Rajkumar Roy, director of manufacturing at Cranfield University
Professor Rajkumar Roy, director of manufacturing at Cranfield University

An innovative qualification from Cranfield University is enrolling a second intake since it launched in January, after large manufacturing employers rushed to enquire having learned the course provides an efficient means of utilising the Apprenticeship Levy.

The Mastership, a trailblazing degree apprenticeship devised by Cranfield, is providing masters-level vocational education for 73 graduate engineers from a leading global defence, security and aerospace manufacturer this year, while allowing the company to claim back the funds under the Apprenticeship Levy’s rules.

A new facility at Cranfield University that will enable bespoke and real-time online tutorials was recently opened by distinguished University alumnus, Grenville Turner. Now other large engineering and manufacturing organisations are keen to exploit the accelerated, high level training that can be paid for through the mandatory training levy, so the postgraduate-only university has launched a second course in 2018.

The level 7, Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering Competence, which is part of the competency-focused apprenticeship is delivered fully online, the first digital-only engineering course of this level in the UK. This gives students the flexibility to study around work and minimise their time away from the business, by combining live interactive group sessions and on-demand sessions, requiring minimal personal attendance – an essential feature for employers concerned about day release and workflow.

Cranfield’s Mastership complies fully with the definition of apprenticeship training under the Government’s guidelines for the Apprenticeship Levy. Graduate engineers receive enhanced, online education and the employer is immediately eligible to reclaim the levy it pays, providing certain criteria are fulfilled. The levy is currently 0.5% of a company’s payroll when that is £3 million or more per annum.

This vocational-plus-academic element is a big pull factor for employers: “The post-graduate diploma in engineering competence will allow our graduate engineers to apply their learning in a work-based context, with the focus of the assessment very much around competency rather than purely academic ability,” explained Professor Rajkumar Roy, director of manufacturing at Cranfield University.

“This innovative programme is a further strengthening of Cranfield’s masters-level apprenticeship offering. Online delivery is key, and engineers are now able to access our study both through live interactive and on-demand sessions.”

This project is being managed by Industry Interface UK (II:UK) on behalf of Cranfield. Stuart Whitehead, co-founder of II:UK, said: “We are delighted that Cranfield has entrusted us to deliver such an innovative project. We will be using our Jefferson Group social media platform, designed to promote British manufacturing and STEM initiatives, to highlight the many aspects of the course and we look forward to meeting with interested parties across the UK in the coming weeks.”

The Mastership answers an oft-lamented problem in industrial recruitment: graduates are bright but have no practical skills. Degree-qualified engineer and co-founder of II:UK Graham Steele commented: “For 40-years, as an engineer and then business owner, a major issue we face hasn’t changed: companies want graduates with practical training that are work-ready.

“Finally, the Mastership and similar courses will fill that need and accelerate the return on investment for employers. The course also allows organisations to upskill the more mature graduates in their organisation which is vital when you consider the phenomenal rate of change in the sector.”

Manufacturers’ organisation EEF says that degree apprenticeships are becoming rapidly more popular and are a win-win for industry and academia.

“As long as the course is a Government-recognised apprenticeship and is signed off for delivery by the Skills Funding Agency – which this is – they can spend that money on these degree apprenticeships,” Verity Davidge, head of education and skills policy at the ‎EEF affirmed.

“From when they were first launched, EEF has said degree apprenticeships are a no-brainer for employers, combining that mix of academic learning and vocational training that they often need.

“Employers often say graduates are better prepared for work when they have completed a sandwich industrial placement, and these have been in decline. Now that courses like the Mastership are here, that fills a void for employers.”

Cranfield University



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