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Elite apprenticeships offer alternative to university, minister says

School leavers are being offered an alternative to university through a new range of high level apprenticeships.

As National Apprenticeship Week gets underway, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said he wanted most young people to either take an apprenticeship or go to university. He made his comments at the launch of a degree level apprenticeship in space engineering provided by Loughborough College and the University of Leicester.

The Higher Apprenticeship in Space Engineering is the first of its kind. The pioneering programme is set to lead the way in training across the country for a sector due to grow fourfold and be worth £40 billion in less than two decades. It is designed to meet the demands of an industry which already employs around 30,000 and contributes over £9 billion to the nation’s economy, with work-based, top quality degree-level training. It follows the success of the Loughborough College and National Space Academy 16+ Space Engineering course.

Speaking at the launch event at the National Space Centre in Leicester, Matthew Hancock said: “Space Engineering Apprenticeships are a great launch pad for a stratospheric career. Since becoming Skills Minister I have said that I want the new norm to be for young people to choose to go to university or become an apprentice. With the introduction of exciting and new apprenticeships like this, it is becoming a reality.

“Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, I would like to encourage young people to think about a career in this stimulating and fast moving sector. I’m sure there will be opportunities for apprentices working in this sector to be involved in some innovative and exciting projects.”

Dr Martin Killeen, Head of Technology at Loughborough College, said: “We have combined our expertise in space engineering education with extensive industry consultation to create a unique and innovative Higher Apprenticeship framework which will give young people and employers outstanding opportunities.

“Delivered through partnerships between education providers including Loughborough College, the National Space Academy and the University of Leicester and the space industry companies employing the trainees, the programme will target locations across England where demand is greatest".

Anu Ojha, Director of the UK’s National Space Academy programme, said: “The Government’s Space Growth Action Plan has highlighted the crucial role that the Higher Apprenticeship scheme for the Space Sector will have in accelerating the growth of the UK space sector. 

“The need for thousands of new entrants to the sector has been clearly expressed by UK space companies that are seeing increasing demand from global customers.”

University of Leicester Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Barstow, Head of the College of Science & Engineering, Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science and President-elect of the  Royal Astronomical Society said: "At the moment, the UK cannot provide enough scientists and engineers for the Space Industry, which is an important and growing part of the economy.

"The new Space Engineering course is aimed at meeting this need. As a pioneer in space education, the first to offer a space science degree in the UK, the host of Space School UK and a founding partner of the National Space Centre, the University of Leicester is ideally placed to provide the academic oversight and validation for this course."

The space sector has a huge impact on everyday life, showing significant growth despite the economic downturn. The commercial sector is driven by increasing demand from consumers for satellite TV and radio, mobile phone services, GPS navigation and from government for emergency services and security, for air traffic management or to monitor climate change. This is predicted to lead to continued high growth – projected at 5 per cent per annum in real terms to 2030.

The Government has pledged an extra £60 million to the UK Space Agency for Europe’s space programme, bringing the UK’s total investment in the European Space Agency to an average of £240 million per year to 2018. This will allow the UK to play a leading role in the next phase of European space collaboration and has secured the future of the ESA facility in Oxfordshire, including transferring ESA’s telecoms satellite headquarters to the UK.