Research Output
STEM Apprenticeship Degrees: Motivations and aspirations of apprentices
  Using the Apprenticeship Levy, England piloted Degree Apprenticeships in 2014 and Scotland followed with Graduate Apprenticeships in 2017. In Scotland, the apprenticeships are determined by employer demand for skills and delivered by universities. Graduate Apprenticeships are four year undergraduate degrees in which the students are in employment, for example, while studying on campus one day per week. A typical on-campus undergraduate degree in Scotland also takes four years to complete. The way in which apprenticeships have been promoted in the UK stresses the importance of earning while learning. However, so far, little is known about the motivations of apprentices themselves, nor of the expectations they have of their apprenticeships. This study investigated new apprentices’ perceptions of computing degrees, focusing on their motivations for selecting an apprenticeship, their expectations of the course and their concerns about the years ahead. Participants (n=22) completed a survey and a group Rich Picture (RP) session. The RP is a participant-centred tool designed to surface perspectives and encourage dialogue. A comparative study was conducted with first year on-campus students (n=21). Images of success and potential failure were observed in both groups. The end goal of success in each case was expressed in terms of material acquisition, with both groups primarily motivated by well-paid careers. In terms of expectations, both groups depicted university study as a journey or game, beset with challenges. Those challenges differed. Apprentices expressed concern about work-study-life balance. There was considerable difference between the two participant cohorts in relation to money: only the on-campus students were concerned about financial challenges and debt. The approach and results of the study will be presented.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    28 June 2018

  • Publication Status:



Smith, S., Taylor-Smith, E., Meharg, D., Smith, C., & Varey, A. (2018, June). STEM Apprenticeship Degrees: Motivations and aspirations of apprentices. Paper presented at Horizons in STEM Higher Education, Hull


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