New report sets out vision for elite vocational education to change minds, lives and rebalance the British economy

  • University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor co-authors new national report into the future of advanced vocational education in the UK
  • Calls for higher quality apprenticeships, integration with university research and partnership with industry
  • High-quality apprenticeships vital to investment and economic growth

Young people should be offered a new kind of apprenticeship that blends academia and industry experience if Britain wants to rebalance its economy and fuel growth, a new report published today (Wednesday 11 March 2015) reveals.

Professor Sir Keith BurnettThe Future of Higher Vocational Education sets out a vision for “elite” vocational education in the UK in which high-quality apprenticeships achieve the same high-quality status as university degrees.

The report by the Vice-Chancellors of the University of Sheffield and University of Warwick, Professor Sir Keith Burnett and Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, sets down how the future of advanced vocational education in the UK will give more young people a world-class education.

“The UK’s internationally respected universities have the potential to deliver something new and aspirational: an elite vocational education with the potential to change minds, lives and our economy,” the report says.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: “All of the main political parties talk about the need to strengthen vocational education and to increase the number of apprentices, but there is still a real lack of clarity about the quality of these apprenticeships, how they link into the needs of the economy and industry and how we ensure that the young people who engage in them really do go on to the very best jobs.”

The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre was the first of the UK’s national specialist research and development facilities to recognise the needs of industry for a new kind of highly skilled and vocationally adept engineering apprenticeship programme leading to degree level study.

This evening (Wednesday 11 March 2015) its first cohort of 250 advanced apprentices, who are employed and sponsored by engineering companies ranging from Rolls-Royce and TATA to smaller supply chain firms, will attend an Apprentices Award Dinner in Sheffield.

The event will highlight the achievements of a new form of apprentices, highly praised by Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce Hamid Mughal.

Mr Mughal said: “If I was 16 years old and I was given a hundred choices for careers, I would choose here every time. You cannot ask for a better environment for tomorrow’s engineers to create the complex, customer-oriented values and solutions for industry, the economy and for the UK than this environment.”

Additional information

Download The Future of Higher Vocational Education report (PDF, 943KB)

About The University of Sheffield’s AMRC Advanced Apprentices

The first cohort of AMRC Advanced Apprentices was accepted in 2014 in a state-of-the-art training centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

The ground breaking AMRC Training Centre, supported by the Regional Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund, aims to create knowledge and manufacturing breakthroughs by equipping highly skilled workers who will go on to regenerate the UK’s manufacturing industry.

Aged from 16, all of the apprentices come from a wide range of manufacturers with operations in the Sheffield city region, including Tata Steel, Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters, AES Seal, MTL Group and Newburgh Engineering, and from the AMRC group itself.

As well as apprenticeships, the centre links with both Sheffield universities for higher-level education up to doctorate and MBA level, and offers a range of courses for continuing professional development.

The AMRC Advanced Apprentices were named Widening Participation Initiative of the Year in the most recent Times Higher Education awards.

The AMRC Training Centre was praised in ‘Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through university and employer collaboration’, published by Universities UK and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The report included the AMRC as a case study of how employers and universities are working together to build pathways to the highly skilled jobs crucial to the UK’s economic future.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046