Graduate apprenticeships have finally received a kite mark from the University Vocational Awards Council and sector skills councils, more than two years after the idea was first mooted.
The apprenticeships were launched three years ago to address employers'
complaints about graduates' readiness for work, particularly in the engineering, telecommunications and information technology industries.
They combine work-based training with full or part-time academic study.
They are open to honours-degree undergraduates and graduates. Apprentices take national vocational qualifications and learn key skills defined by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority while working.
Simon Roodhouse, chief operating officer at Uvac, said he hoped the kite-marking would raise the apprenticeships' profile.
The apprenticeships were the first national bridging programme from study into work, he claimed. They could help universities to improve graduate employability rates, as well as meet the 50 per cent participation target for 18 to 30-year-olds.
Professor Roodhouse said that graduate apprenticeships could form part of a work-based, part-time route into higher education.
"A youngster who started work at 16, could stay in work, earn money and reach higher education even if it took a lot longer," he said.
After a series of pilots, the Department for Education and Skills provided £5 million to help fund apprenticeships in 50 universities and colleges. It passed funding to the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2002.
Institutions are working with national training organisations to develop frameworks for 79 apprenticeship schemes, of which Uvac has kite-marked three. Another five are in the pipeline. A strategy group, set up by the DFES, approved 29 frameworks before being disbanded.
Details: www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/ 2001/01_41/01_41.doc