POLICE ‘apprenticeships’ will be introduced to new constables serving in Oxfordshire during ‘the spring or summer of 2018’, it has emerged.
The scheme will see recruits complete a three-year ‘degree apprenticeship’ as part of changes which mean all police officers in England and Wales must be educated to degree-level.
Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Francis Habgood said the costs of educating officers to study while they serve would be ‘borne by the force’ as he spoke at a conference in Birmingham last week to forces across the country.
Mr Habgood said: “It will be a three-year programme at the end of which they will have a degree, a salary and no student debt.
In the future we are going to have police officers coming in with a degree and £50,000 worth of debt.
“Or we are going to have people coming in with zero debt, having everything paid for by the organisation.”
But according to Thames Valley Police Federation, Mr Habgood said at the conference this was ‘not a firm position’.
Mr Habgood previously told the Oxford Mail the policing landscape is ‘far more complex now than it ever has been in the past’ with the emergence of complex crimes such as cyber-crime and sex offences.
He added about 50 per cent of new recruits currently join with a degree.
But Thames Valley Police federation, the body which represents rank-and-file officers, said the apprenticeship scheme will see officers potentially paid ’20 per cent less than their more highly-qualified counterparts’.
The conference heard officers at the bottom end of the pay scale earn about £19,700 a year.
After they have paid their rent, council tax, food, travel and bills they are left with just £35 a month, the federation said.
Dr Joan Donnelly, head of research and policy support at the federation, said: “I find it shocking that you don’t know what the pay will be for apprentices yet and whether they will get a 20 per cent reduction [compared with graduates] which is what we understand.
“The average starting age of officer is 28. How would a 28-year old live off that kind of money and disposable income?”
The apprenticeship will see recruits receive a salary and have the university academic component of their course funded by their respective force.
In contrast, a policing degree would have to be self-funded and the student would still have to successfully apply to become a police officer after completing it.
The money for the apprenticeships is expected to come from the Government’s apprenticeship levy due to come into force in April.
This requires employers with an annual salary and pay bill of more than £3 million to spend the equivalent of 0.5 per cent of it on apprenticeships.