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‘They gave me an opportunity, and I took it’: motivations and concerns of adult apprentices

Smith, Sally; Fabian, Khristin; Taylor-Smith, Ella; Barr, Matthew; Berg, Tessa; Bratton, Andrew; Kolberg, Mario; Paterson, Jim; Zarb, Mark


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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor

Matthew Barr

Tessa Berg

Mario Kolberg

Jim Paterson

Mark Zarb


In the UK context of an ageing population, degree apprenticeships represent a new opportunity to study for a degree while working. Apprentices are full-time employees granted time to study for a degree with a significant workplace learning component. The aim of this study was to focus on whether degree apprenticeships are working for adult apprentices (aged 26 and up in this context). New apprentices (n=162) in six universities in Scotland, UK were surveyed to gain a better understanding of background, prior work and study experience, motivations and expectations. Results show that adult apprentices join apprenticeship programmes with significant work experience and workplace metaskills, together with a consolidated sense of self as a professional. Adult apprentices aimed to gain a degree while remaining in work, thus increasing skills in situ. The main barrier identified was the challenge of achieving work-study-life balance. The findings can be used to more closely align apprenticeship provision with adult apprentices’ skills needs while reducing barriers to accessing and succeeding in apprenticeships. We make recommendations for more flexibility in terms of advanced entry and Masters-level apprenticeships, with better recognition of prior experience, motivations and anticipated challenges.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 24, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 5, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 4, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 5, 2023
Print ISSN 1363-6820
Electronic ISSN 1747-5090
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords degree apprenticeship, graduate apprenticeship, adult learner, adult apprentice, computing, business management


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