20170922How a new wave of debt-free degree apprenticeships is filling the skills gap.

How a new wave of debt-free degree apprenticeships is filling the skills gap.

The story of the "earn while you learn" degree apprenticeships that are attracting government funds, talented students and high level jobs.

The Degree Apprenticeship, launched in 2015, allows students to combine four years' work experience with studying for a degree. Unlike many other students who leave university with thousands of pounds worth of debt, these are free degrees.

With business partners like pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, Barclays and Pizza Hut, Manchester Metropolitan University is at the forefront of this revolution in higher education. Since 2015, they have seen the number of degree apprenticeship students grow from 60 to almost 700 - working their way through degrees ranging from digital technology to management. The University now has 15 per cent of all degree apprentices in the country.

Samantha Fenwick meets pioneer students Jess, Aaron and Izzy to find out why they chose this route over a traditional degree and how they juggle the pressure of a demanding job with staying on top of university course work.

It's tough, but the rewards are good and - unlike most of their friends - they have money in the bank and can afford holidays and even first houses.

Samantha also hears from employers who are investing heavily in degree apprenticeships as a way of tackling their skills shortages, particularly in areas like software engineering, cyber security and analytics.

Presenter: Samantha Fenwick
Producer: Maria Mcgeoghan
A Sparklab production for BBC Radio 4.