Friday 24th November marked a historical moment in the University of Kent’s and the Government Economics Service’s apprenticeship delivery, as the first cohort of Professional Economist Degree apprentices ended their four-year journey in a graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral. These graduates, the first cohort of their kind, have set a remarkable milestone in their careers, demonstrating the power of work-based learning.
This exceptional cohort have excelled both in academic accomplishments and their careers. An outstanding 100% of the apprentices successfully completed their degree-level apprenticeship, a testament to their unwavering commitment to their studies. Even more impressively over 95% of these talented individuals achieved a 2:1 or first-class degree classification, showcasing their excellence in their field.
The Professional Economist Degree-Level apprenticeship follows academic content that mirrors Kent’s standard BSc in Economics undergraduate degree, but with the added benefit of continuous on-the-job learning. The apprentices also gain an apprenticeship award, alongside their BSc in Professional Economics, after completing an integrated end-point assessment (EPA). The external examiner for the degree provided exceptional feedback, stating:
‘This entire programme is an example of good practice. The clear partnership between Kent and the employers provides synergies that allows students to develop deeper understanding, and provides a much greater motivation for students than exists in many other, non-apprenticeship programmes across the country.’
‘Overall, the degree apprenticeship programme creates a unique environment for students to develop both theoretical, and practical experience of economics, and the workplace environment, combined with the academic teaching, allows for students to reinforce understanding in both directions. The programme is clearly succeeding to develop highly capable, and motivated economists.’
These comments reflect not only the remarkable resilience of these graduates but also the high-quality education and mentorship they received throughout their apprenticeship journey.
This cohort saw the first cohort of Government Economic Service apprentices join the civil service in junior economist roles. Other employers on this cohort included the Bank of England, Arup, Jacobs, Ofcom, Northamptonshire County Council and the Civil Aviation Authority. All of the employers provided robust, supportive and exceptional early careers route into becoming an economist. Alongside the employers, the apprentices benefited from dedicated support offered by the University through expert academics and their unwavering apprenticeship advisors, who stood by their side throughout their transformative four-year journey.
These apprentices journey began in 2019, seeing this group of trailblazers embark on the Level 6 Professional Economist Degree apprenticeship programme, an apprenticeship standard that was officially approved for delivery in August 2018. Many of the cohort were school leavers embarking on their first full-time role. Their path to success was not without challenges, including the unforeseen hurdles posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite these obstacles, this cohort exhibited an extraordinary level of determination, proving that their commitment to their futures as economists could not be deterred. The graduation of this inaugural cohort signifies not just the end of an educational chapter but the beginning of promising careers in economics.
Professor Alastair Bailey, part of the team who developed the programme is delighted with the achievements of this first cohort.
‘As these graduates step into the professional world, they bring with them not just their academic achievements but also a significant resilience acquired through overcoming various challenges. Their ability to navigate adversity while pursuing their studies equips them with a unique set of skills that will undoubtedly serve them well in their future careers.’
Professor Iain Fraser, the Academic Lead of the programme added:
‘Our first group of apprentices have set a high standard for the future cohorts of professional economist apprentices. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to each member of this pioneering cohort, who we are confident will go on to make a significant impact in the field of economics and beyond.’
“These trailblazers set a high standard for the future cohorts of professional economist apprentices. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to each member of this pioneering cohort, who we are confident will go on to make a significant impact in the field of economics and beyond.”
Participating Employers and Apprentices have provided us with commentary on their experience throughout the duration of this apprenticeship:
‘I am delighted that our first ever cohort of Government Economic Service degree apprentices are celebrating their graduation from such a prestigious programme.’ Sam Beckett, Head of the Government Economic Service, Chief Economic Adviser to the Chancellor, and Second Permanent Secretary to HM Treasury told us ‘Their fantastic results represent the culmination of four years of hard work, making invaluable contributions to important projects across government. The apprentices have brought their diverse perspectives and experiences to their roles, and have showcased, from the very beginning, their ability to provide high-quality analysis. The apprentices entered the Civil Service through a novel and accessible route, and are at the forefront of a cultural shift towards degree apprenticeships in the Civil Service and beyond. They are all talented and accomplished individuals, and I look forward to seeing their contribution to the GES across many years to come.’
‘I was keen to go down the degree apprenticeship route after completing college as I wanted to study economics and work on real-world economic issues.’ Mobena Khatun, Assistant Economist, HM Treasury summed up the experience ‘Four years later and I couldn’t be more glad with my decision! I’ve had the opportunity to work on once in a lifetime, high profile issues and I have actively been able to apply my learning from University into the workplace. Now that I have completed the degree apprenticeship, I am proud to say I have a degree in economics and years of invaluable experience as an economist to my name.’
The Level 6 Professional Degree Economist apprenticeship has run yearly since the inaugural cohort began in 2019.The University of Kent currently deliver this programme to apprentices from various employers across the UK, and continue to be the sole supplier of the degree apprenticeship to the Government Economics Service. The next cohort of apprentices will be starting in September 2024.