Building on the third industrial revolution, which used electronics and information technology to automate production, the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is the next phase in the digitisation of the manufacturing sector. It is driven by several factors: the rise in data volumes, computational power, and connectivity; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented reality systems; and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advance robotics and 3D printing (Source: Manufacturing’s next act, McKinsey, 2015)
The emergence of Industry 4.0 is transforming the labour market. For example, 'with the digitisation of the product development process, we are seeing design, production planning, engineering, manufacturing and services merging into one unit, instead of being sequential … advanced manufacturing requires new and advanced skill sets' (Source: Advanced manufacturing: beyond the production line, CEDA, 2014, p. 5).
Apprenticeships offer a critical supply of skilled labour to industry and their enduring contribution is based on the commitment of employers and apprentices and their adaptability (Source: Laying the foundations for apprenticeship reform, NSW Business Chamber, 2016). It's the latter factor in particular, which make apprenticeships ideal for the diffusion of higher skills for emerging high tech jobs.
- Amplifying human potential: education and skills for the fourth industrial revolution [international, 2016]
- How to create skills for an emerging industry: the case of technician skills and training in cell therapy [UK, 2017]
- Man and machine in Industry 4.0: how will technology transform the industrial workforce through 2025? [Germany, 2015]
- Realizing human potential in the fourth industrial revolution: an agenda for leaders to shape the future of education, gender and work 
- The digital revolution: the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on employment and education [UK, 2016]
- The future of Australian apprenticeships: report of the stakeholder forum 
- The future of jobs: employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution [international, 2016]
Higher level apprenticeships
The higher-level apprenticeship is not a new concept. Indeed, in 1995, North Carolina in the US implemented Apprenticeships 2000, a four-year technical training partnership that offered selected high school students a guaranteed job with a partnering company in the advanced manufacturing industry. In the United Kingdom (UK), the potential benefits of opening up progression routes from work-based education to higher education were identified by the late 1990s. It was reinforced in the 2001 report of the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, Modern Apprenticeships: the way to work, which proposed that 'the national framework should refer to the opportunities for apprentices to progress into higher education, whether immediately after or even during an advanced modern apprenticeship'.
- Higher apprenticeships and the shaping of vocational knowledge [international, 2015]
- Higher apprenticeships: completing the map [UK, 2016]
- Higher apprenticeships in England: professional and vocational formation 
- The potential for Higher Apprenticeships: research report [UK, 2013]
Defining higher level apprenticeships
In the UK, degree apprenticeships are a new apprenticeship model that combines university study with on-the-job training typical of apprenticeships leading to a full Bachelors' or Masters' degree.
In Australia, the first pilots of higher-level apprenticeships suggest this model combines higher-level vocational qualifications (Diploma and Associate Degree level) and on-the-job training.
In Europe, countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, France and the Netherlands that have strong vocational education and training systems, apprenticeships have largely been separate from higher education. However, as elsewhere in the world, work-based academic education is on the rise, fuelled by an increasing demand for higher level skills. The rise of work-based academic education in Austria, Germany and Switzerland provides a comparative analysis of how the institutional divide between vocational and higher education is being addressed through the development of hybrid models of advanced work-based academic education that combine vocational training with higher education.
- Advanced and higher vocational education in Scotland: recontextualising the provision of HE in FE 
- Degree apprenticeships: realising opportunities [UK, 2017]
- Degree apprenticeships: higher technical or technical higher (education)? [UK, 2016]
- Engineering facilities in further education colleges in England 
- The future of higher vocational education: advanced apprenticeships: uniting universities and industry in manufacturing the UK's economic future 
In 2013, the UK Government began significant reforms of its apprenticeship system based on recommendations from The Richard review of apprenticeships. With the release of the UK Government's response paper The future of apprenticeships in England: implementation plan, eight new 'trailblazer apprenticeships' were also released. Trailblazers are groups of employers taking greater ownership of apprenticeship training by designing new apprenticeship standards for occupations within their sectors. These new standards include new higher and degree apprenticeships ranging from Level 4 Foundation Degree or Higher National Diploma to Level 7 Masters' degree and postgraduate certificate and diploma, creating new vocational pathways to higher level occupations (Source: Process evaluation of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers: final report, UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2015). Degree level apprenticeships are available in a range of sectors, including Business and IT, Construction, Manufacturing, processing and logistics, Energy, and Engineering and electrical systems.
One expectation of Trailblazers, reported in Evaluation of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers: interim report, is that they will create entry and progression routes for young people, providing alternative pathways to higher level qualifications. Information about the regulation and approval of apprenticeship standards for higher-level and degree apprenticeships is set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan.
In Australia, the Victorian State Government commissioned a report to test demand for higher apprenticeship options with local industries in 2012. It found that while the current system did not necessarily preclude high achievers and motivated individuals from obtaining rewarding and fulfilling trade careers, more could be done to broaden the scope, awareness and take up of these opportunities.
To encourage broader industry adoption of all alternative methods of delivering apprenticeship training outside of the traditional trade training models, in December 2015, the Australian Government announced it would set up five industry-led pilot projects. Two of these pilots offer participants the opportunity to gain higher-level qualifications via an apprenticeship: the Ai Group’s Higher Level Applied Technology Apprenticeship, implemented in collaboration with Siemens Ltd and Swinburne University of Technology will lead to Diploma and Associate Degree in Applied Technologies qualifications upon completion. The other pilot, PwC’s Higher Level Apprenticeship and Traineeship Pilot will enable participants to complete Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Associate Degree in business, IT and professional services.
- Employer investment in intermediate-level STEM skills: how employers manage the investment risk associated with apprenticeships [UK, 2016]
- From Trailblazers to mainstream: some issues relating to future development of apprenticeship policy and delivery in England 
- Growing your own graduates through degree apprenticeships: a case study of collaboration between the University of Winchester and CGI [UK, 2016]
- Stepping into one another's world: apprenticeships: transforming engineering technologist education in New Zealand 
Apprenticeship reform is also aimed at encouraging take-up and participation in apprenticeship opportunities. It is well established that higher educational levels lead to higher income and greater social integration. Young people from lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to undertake vocational qualifications like apprenticeships than those whose parents are already in professional occupations. Opening up access to professions through higher level apprenticeships provides an opportunity for upward social mobility. Despite evidence indicating a lack of progression of apprentices into higher education (reported in a number of studies, for example Developing Higher Apprenticeships in England; An analysis of the progression of Advanced Apprentices to higher education in England: an investigation into the purposes, intentions and opportunities facing Advanced Apprentices as perceived by learners, employers and providers of higher education; Apprenticeships, young people, and social mobility), the emergence of Industry 4.0 is set to transform the apprenticeship system, creating demand for new kinds of intermediate/technician roles and the apprenticeships required to skill them.
We encourage you to explore the Apprenticeship models Podlet for further information.
- Employer demand for intermediate technical education in higher education [UK, 2016]
- Higher, further, faster, more: improving higher level professional and technical education [UK, 2015]
- Professional bodies and apprenticeships [UK, 2015]
- The role of universities in higher apprenticeship development [UK, 2012]
- The skills we need, and why we don't have them: how Apprenticeships should be reformed to make the UK compete on the global stage 
- Where next for apprenticeships?: policy report [UK, 2016]
- Degree apprenticeships [UK]
- Degree apprenticeships briefing [UK]
- Higher and degree apprenticeships [UK]
- Higher Apprenticeship frameworks [UK]
- Industry 4.0 [Australia]
- The fourth industrial revolution and Indigenous Australia
News and opinion pieces
- Apprenticeship levy: why degree apprenticeships should be on your list [UK]
(Source: Personnel Today, March 2017)
- Australian CEOs meet to collaborate on Industry 4.0
(Source: Standards Australia, September 2016)
- Degree apprenticeship addresses shortage of food technologists [UK]
(Source: Food Science & Technology, February 2017)
- Degree apprenticeships awarded multi-million pound fund [UK]
(Source: The Telegraph, November 2016)
- Degree apprenticeships 'on verge of significant success' [UK]
(Source: BBC News, March 2017)
- Degree apprenticeships: the best of both worlds? [UK]
(Source: Times Higher Education, March 2016)
- Degree apprenticeships and the new pathway into higher education [UK]
(Source: FE News, November 2016)
- Here's why professional apprenticeships are an alternative to college [Ireland]
(Source: gradireland, June 2016)
- Higher apprenticeships are the key to future economic success for the wider Welsh economy
(Source: Business News Wales, January 2017)
- Higher apprenticeships: the best of both worlds [UK]
(Source: The Guardian, March 2017)
- Inventing apprenticeships for the future [Australia]
(Source: Swinburne University of Technology, September 2016)
- Is this the new dawn for apprenticeships? [UK]
(Source: FE Week, September 2016)
- Open University to offer degree apprenticeships [UK]
(Source: TES, August 2016)
- Postgrad apprenticeships: ready for take-off [UK]
(Source: The Guardian, March 2017)
- The new apprenticeship model: high-tech and high pay [Australia]
(Source: FCTA, September 2016)
- Two new higher apprenticeship pilot programs partner with industry [Australia]
(Source: Department of Education and Training, September 2016)
- University-led apprenticeships: a new model for apprentice-education [UK]
(Source: University of Sheffield, August 2016)
Published: March 2017