Higher Level Apprenticeships

Recruit smart with a Higher Level Apprenticeship


Recruit smart with a Higher Level Apprenticeship South West College supported by the Department for the Economy, Ulster University and many leading employers across the South West region is delighted to announce a major new jobs initiative for the South West region. The College has secured 150 FREE places on 10 new pilot Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) programmes specific to industry needs. These programmes will offer employers an opportunity to ‘recruit smart’ by addressing the urgent gap in high-level skills shortages increasingly evident across the region.

Emmet Lagan a Higher Level Apprentice in Engineering at South West College won the DfE Apprentice of the Year for 2016. Emmet is employed by SSE as part of his Apprenticeship was selected from hundreds of nominations due to his commitment to his course and his employer. Hear what Emmet has to say:

The Higher Level Apprenticeship Framework

South West College has led the way in developing the Higher Level Apprenticeship framework within Northern Ireland having successfully delivered two Higher Level Apprenticeship pilots; one in Engineering (Gold Programme) and the other in ICT. Due to the success of these programmes the College is now offering 10 new pilot programmes in key priority skills areas:

  1. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Renewable Technology
  2. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Information Technology
  3. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Engineering
  4. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Sustainable Construction & BIM
  5. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Civil Engineering
  6. Higher Level Apprenticeship in Accountancy

What is a Higher Level Apprenticeship?

A Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) is a unique work-based programme which enables participants to earn while they learn and gain a nationally recognised professional qualification. Successful candidates will be employed in an organisation relevant to their chosen profession to gain valuable experience over a 2 or 3 year period. This experience will coincide with a close mentoring relationship and academic support provided by South West College as they progress through the Foundation Degree.

Our Qualifications Explained

The Higher Level Apprentice programme is widely recognised as the best combination of on the job training and employee higher level study available. The unique programme offers employees the opportunity to gain a third level qualification at Foundation Degree level, whilst improving business practice by developing a progressively skilled workforce essential for today’s competitive global market. 

Student views

Josh Mens has successfully completed a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Engineering, in association with Kiverco (Dungannon).  Josh said:

“My experience over the past 2 years on the Higher Level Apprenticeship (following 2 years on the Gold Engineering Advanced Technician Apprenticeship) has given me the stepping stones required to progress, both from an academic point of view and also in my job role as Design Engineer with Kiverco.

“Following GCSEs, full-time education did not appeal to me, as I had a strong desire to work and ‘earn while I learn’.  The HLA has been the perfect opportunity to take me to the next level on my career path, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies with South West College.

“The opportunity to study the Foundation Degree, whilst continuing to work within industry, has been the perfect combination, giving me a solid base upon which to grow and to achieve.   I feel privileged to have the opportunity to progress further with my studies, and am now enjoying being a part of the BEng (Hons) Degree cohort in Engineering.”

Josh Mens a GOLD engineering apprentice at SWC was recently selected as a finalist in the category of ‘UK’s Higher Apprentice of the year 2015’

Gordon Wiggins from Roslea is pursuing a career with Quinn Therm after completing a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Manufacturing Engineering at South West College.
The Manufacturing Engineering Higher Level Apprenticeship which is delivered by South West College is one of the Higher Level Apprenticeships developed as part of the Northern Ireland Apprenticeships Strategy – Securing Our Success.
Speaking about his Higher Level Apprenticeship experience Gordon said: “The Higher Level Apprenticeship was a great opportunity to up skill while still learning important work skills and earning a wage. In just two years I have attained a Level 5 qualification with no student debt. Since I completed the Higher Level Apprenticeship I am now able to apply for other Higher Education qualifications. As the course is tailored to suit the industry need and my assignments were work based projects, these benefitted both the company and myself. ”

Mairead McDermott from Omagh is pursuing a career with QMac Construction while completing a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Sustainable Construction at South West College.

Speaking about her experience Mairead said: “The Higher Level Apprenticeship has been a great experience which has allowed me to study at home without the worry of university fees. The course allows me to work towards a third level qualification whilst earning a salary. This is more than just a normal course; it teaches you how to apply your skills and prepares you for life after education.&rdquo

The employer’s perspective

Anne McKiver, Managing Director, Kiverco, has employed Higher Level Apprentices and is a strong supporter of the programme. Anne said;
“The South West College programme was great for both of us and our students/ employees. Throughout the programme they were actively involved within many areas of our manufacturing process, from design through to fabrication, fitting and installation. The academic and practical components of the programme taught at South West College complement the engineering sector very well, with the apprentices gaining invaluable hands on experience and skills while learning the theory behind it.”

Kevin Lunney, Chief Operations Director at Quinn Industrial Holdings Ltd said:

“The Higher Level Apprenticeship is a fantastic route for employees to follow enabling them to gain higher level qualifications alongside working.  These programmes are extremely valuable and beneficial to the business as work based assignments can be tailored to suit the business needs and employees have an opportunity to become upskilled which is aligned to our succession planning.”

Sean Mullen, Senior Contracts Manager, QMac Construction said:
“We find the Higher Level Apprenticeship a great resource to up skill our staff. It gives them the opportunity to work towards a professional qualification, whilst gaining valuable on the job experience. The encouragement from SWC and job security from QMAC really drive candidates to reaching their full potential.”

The benefits for employers

Higher Level Apprenticeships deliver on many levels for business:

1. Meet the unique needs of your business
With Higher Apprentices learning at work, they’re able to develop the knowledge and occupational competencies demanded by specific job roles, and meet the unique needs of your business.

2. Increasing your productivity
Higher Level Apprenticeships can keep your business up-todate with the latest techniques and technology, increasing your productivity for the future.

3. Recruit from a larger talent pool
Higher Level Apprenticeships enable business to attract and retain employees with potential, expanding workplace diversity and benefiting the local community and wider economy.

4. Develop existing staff
Employers can develop existing staff as they work with their higher apprentice, through mentoring opportunities and more.

5. Fill your higher level skills gaps
Higher level skills are vital to business performance and economic growth – through higher apprenticeships, you can fill your higher level skills gaps efficiently and effectively by tailoring the learning to your workplace.

6. Clear Progression routes
There’s a clear, work-based pathway, from craft to technician to professional and managerial skills.

7. Attract higher calibre staff
Higher Level Apprenticeships can attract higher calibre staff and help employers develop a more motivated and committed workforce.

8. Train the way your business works
With a higher apprentice, you are training someone for the way your business works from the start. The aim of the programmes is to develop the skills relevant to employers from day one.

How is the course delivered?

The Foundation Degree qualification of the Higher Level Apprenticeship will be delivered part-time, 2 evenings per week or 1 full day per week. Traditional teaching methods such as lectures, seminars and tutorials will be used. In addition some elements of the programme will be delivered through blended learning and the College Virtual Academy.

To ensure that South West College fully meets its obligations under the Higher Level Apprenticeship programme, the College will appoint a Programme Support Officer (PSO) who will have responsibility for supporting HLA in the workplace. The PSO will act as a conduit between the College as the provider, and the employer, and will undertake all programme induction activities with the Higher Level Apprentices and their employer. For the duration of the HLA and the employer’s participation in the programme the PSO will remain as the key contact point for administrative matters.

Work-based mentoring will be used to support the learning process for HLAs and will be particularly important in the Work-Based Learning Project modules. For such modules, it is anticipated that the Work Based Mentor (WBM) and the Course Director for the Foundation Degree will provide a supportive role.

The delivery of the Higher Level Apprenticeship programme will be delivered through a blended approach and students can also log on remotely from their workplace or home to access learning materials and course content.

Additional innovation support for employers

As an enhancement to the new Higher Level Apprenticeship programme being offered by South West College, a SMART Development Voucher will be available for each of the businesses participating in the programme.

This Voucher will be offered to each business and will allow access to the facilities within the innovation centres within the college covering areas including product design, digital media and renewable technologies.

Each Voucher will allow the participating business to access up to two days of assistance from the College’s Innovation Centre team which may be used to begin the investigation into a new business innovation activity such as product and service design, prototyping, testing, R&D scoping. Sectors include Engineering, Construction, Energy, IT, Digital Media and Professional Services.

Let your apprentices lead the way!

South West College values the importance of state-ofthe- art technologies in curriculum delivery. To ensure that students are trained to the highest standard all Higher Level Apprentices will have direct access to halfday and full-day Innovation Workshops in the College’s European leading Innovation Centres. They will have access to:

  • 3D printing
  • CNC Machining
  • Digital Fabrication
  • E-commerce
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Sustainable Construction
  • Design Thinking
  • Intellectual Property
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Photoshop and InDesign
  • CE Marking
Technical mentoring support will also be available directly to students who are working on innovating and developing the product lines of employers.

What cost is involved?

FREE. There are no fees attached to any of these programmes. This will allow the Higher Level Apprentice to start their highly skilled career without the student debt that many university students experience, and with the added bonus of gaining a wage.
Contact: Noreen McGirr HLA Coordinator M: 07734 281 026 W: 028 8772 0677
E: noreen.mcgirr@swc.ac.uk