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GC launches county’s first trailblazer degree apprenticeship with UWE

14 March 2016
Image representing GC launches county’s first trailblazer degree apprenticeship with UWE

Gloucestershire College has further strengthened its partnership with the University of the West of England and GE Aviation to launch the county’s first trailblazer apprenticeship in engineering; increasing access to higher education and degree-level apprenticeships in Gloucestershire. 

The BEng (Hons) Degree Apprenticeship in Electronic and Computer Engineering successfully launched in September, with 16 apprentices working at leading engineering companies – 13 at GE Aviation – whilst studying for their Level 6 qualification at the College and University. 

The trailblazer apprenticeship has been designed by employers, for employers, to produce highly skilled and employable professionals who can meet the growing local demand for qualified engineers. 

At the College’s Gloucester Campus, apprentices learn a wide range of skills in the new GFirst-backed STEMBED Engineering Centre, including digital and analogue electronics; mathematics and computer programming; digital design; and the application of electronics in a range of environments. A UWE Bristol, they also get an inside track on the industry through factory tours and professional briefings from leading organisations. 

Brian Fowler, Head of Engineering at GC, said: “Our apprenticeship programme is already successful and this exciting new scheme offers a real alternative to going to university – it combines the apprenticeship with higher education. 

“From the start, students are able to ‘earn and learn’, and develop as professional engineers. We have actively worked with employers to identify their high level skill needs and can now offer higher education in partnership with UWE, at Gloucestershire College. In addition to the BEng (Hons) in Electronic and Aerospace Computer Systems Engineering, we have plans to offer similar mechanical programmes in the near future.” 

The new degree apprenticeship is the second qualification to be offered by Gloucestershire College and the University of the West of England, following the popular Foundation Degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering.

Dr John Lanham, Associate Dean at UWE, said: “UWE is pleased to be working with Gloucestershire College, GE Aviation and other local employers in developing and launching this trailblazer apprenticeship. The partnership builds on a long running collaboration between UWE, the College and GE.

“There are a wealth of opportunities in engineering as proven by UWE Bristol’s consistently strong graduate employment arising from a number of routes for students from degrees with paid internships to degree apprenticeships.  Degree apprenticeships are a strategic priority for UWE and align completely with the university’s 2020 strategy, plans and ambitions, and this programme is the first of several UWE will be developing in the coming year.” 

The apprentices themselves view the degree apprenticeship as a viable route to a successful career in engineering, and are enjoying putting the practical skills they learn in college and university into practice in the workplace.

19-year-old Gary Shaw, an apprentice from Gloucester who works for GE Aviation, said: “I chose the engineering higher apprenticeship with GE Aviation after initially hearing about the company during a work experience placement in Abu Dhabi. The company has a great reputation worldwide and the apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity; it focuses on your own personal development and helps you improve your soft skills, as well as learn invaluable skills that are essential in an engineering workplace.”

20-year-old Emma Hardiman, an apprentice from Aston Somerville also working for GE, said: “After my A Levels I went to university, however I found that the learning style, lack of application and way of life didn’t suit me. I chose to do the engineering higher apprenticeship because it means you can apply everything you learn from the degree modules at work. While at work we have an abundance of opportunities; we can take part in a wide variety of STEM activities and get involved in real engineering tasks. There’s, of course, the added bonus of having no student debt and being paid throughout the apprenticeship.”

Clive Arnold, Engineering Resource Development Manager at GE Aviation, said: “I believe engineering higher apprenticeships have taken a major step forward under the new Employer Ownership of Skills and Trailblazer initiatives. The fundamental shift  away from having  Level 4 foundation degrees, followed by bolt-on Level 6 top-up degrees, will now provide a more seamless way of consolidating  the  combination of academic learning and expansive vocational  experience that will be hard to match in any way, other than with a Level 6 or 7 engineering degree apprenticeship.”

For more information about apprenticeships at Gloucestershire College, and to see the full list of current vacancies, visit

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