Australia’s first Degree Apprenticeship offered in SA

From next year, South Australian apprentices will be able to study at university and earn money while working for a defence employer under Australia’s first genuine Degree Apprenticeship, supported by funding from the State Government.

The South Australian Skills Commission has formally declared the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Honours) to be a trade under the South Australian Skills Act 2008 – the final step in the process of approving new apprenticeships.

SA Skills Commissioner Cameron Baker said that after careful consideration of the application submitted by industry partners the South Australian Skills Commission has approved the new trade pathway.

“This will afford apprentices and employers the protections under the South Australian Skills Act 2008 and the training contract itself and allow industry to develop individuals’ skills to help increase their future workforce”, he said.

The State Government has committed $450,000 over three years to support the establishment of the software engineering degree apprenticeship, with the program to be delivered via a partnership between the University of South Australia, the defence industry and peak national employer group, Australian Industry (Ai) Group.

AI Group Executive Director Mega Lily said Degree apprenticeships are a timely and important innovation to help develop the skills that are vital to the economy.

“A degree apprenticeship blends to best of theoretical and applied learning in the context of work. Students/apprentices gain real time contemporary skills and earn while they learn. This model is a win, win for students, employers and innovative universities.”

“Ai Group congratulates the South Australian government for supporting this important initiative and we look forward to further collaboration to expand this model.”

The design of the apprenticeship was undertaken by UniSA and Ai Group, and supported by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Australia Pty Ltd, DXC Technology, ASC Pty Ltd (WA division), and the Defence Teaming Centre.

“UniSA welcomes this innovative software engineering pathway. To be delivered in collaboration with industry, the new software engineering degree apprenticeship will embed students in the workplace from day one, ensuring a real-world experience throughout their learning journey”, said University of South Australia Provost and Chief Academic Officer Professor Joanne Cyrus.

“This program presents an exciting opportunity for UniSA and our partners to develop the next generation of engineers in this highly sought-after discipline.”

The degree apprenticeship will support new entrants in the growing defence sector, ahead of the construction of nuclear-powered AUKUS submarines.

It is the first time in Australia that apprentices who successfully complete their studies will receive a degree qualification as part of an apprenticeship.

The Premier first flagged the degree apprenticeships for the defence industry during his visit to the United Kingdom earlier this year.

In the UK, degree apprenticeships are delivered with success with a very high graduate retention and completion.

The first intake of up to 30 apprentices will occur next year.

They will be paid to attend work and study at university and, critically, be provided with on-job training by qualified and skilled supervisors in work relevant to the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Honours).

Those who successfully complete the five-year apprenticeship will receive their degree and a trade certificate.

The Software Engineer apprenticeship will support not just the upcoming AUKUS project and the wider South Australian defence sector, but other high-tech industries including advanced manufacturing.

It is expected that this initiative will enable the degree apprenticeship model to be developed further in South Australia and applied to other industries, where on-the job learning while studying at university could fast track the development of work ready university graduates. This could include disciplines such as electrical and mechanical engineering.