Young people will be able to gain a full honours degree while earning a wage and paying no fees, under a scheme backed by government and industry.
The new Degree Apprenticeship qualifications will be taught in England from next September, starting in the digital and software field.
The government will pay two-thirds of the costs and fees while employers pay trainees’ wages and other costs.
The government says employers of any size can take part in the scheme.
It stems from government collaboration with higher education and industry, said Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey.
Some 150 places have already been guaranteed on the programme by the employers involved, in subject areas ranging from software design to information technology for business.
The aim is to integrate academic learning at degree level and on-the-job practical training – “to ensure that education and training routes are providing the skills which employers need now and in the future”, said Mr Vaizey.
The employers involved include Accenture, BT, Capgemini, Ford, Fujitsu, GlaxoSmithKline, HM Revenue and Customs, Hewlett Packard, IBM, John Lewis, Lloyds Banking Group, Network Rail and Tata Consulting Services.
The academic side of the courses will be provided by universities including Aston, Exeter, Greenwich, Loughborough, Manchester Metropolitan, University College London, the University of the West of England and Winchester.
Capgemini’s UK chairman Christine Hodgson said the scheme would “enable young people to build the academic and practical skills needed for success in the tech sector and help create the talent needed to boost the digital economy”.
Richard Pettinger, director of information management for business degree programmes at UCL, said the university was delighted to collaborate with employers and government on the new qualifications “to help increase the flow of skills into the tech industry”.
Head teachers also welcomed the scheme – Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders described it as “a really interesting development in the growing range of alternatives to traditional university courses”.
“There is massive demand for recruits to these industries who are highly skilled and knowledgeable,” said Mr Lightman.
He added that it was vital that enough information and guidance on the new options was made available to schools.
The government hopes that if the programme is successful in the digital sector, it could be extended to other industries.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS