Tech Industry

Can tech apprenticeships bridge the IT skills gap?

Tech companies are recruiting new apprentices; can this undo the damage to entry level career prospects done by offshoring?
The UK is hoping a new wave of apprenticeships can offer young people a better route into the tech industry - and provide companies with the skills they need.

The number of IT apprenticeships has increased rapidly: nearly 24,000 people have started an IT apprenticeship in the past two years, almost double the number in the previous two years, while there are currently over 700 live vacancies for IT apprenticeships available through the National Apprenticeship Service.

Employers have long been critical of the skills of IT graduates and have been demanding more business-ready recruits: IT apprenticeships - which offer a job combined with a skills development programme designed by the employer – may be one way to solve the issue. Government funding covers the cost of training so employers only have to pay wages.

But while the focus on tech apprenticeships is laudable, it's also in part the industry making up for its past mistakes. The offshoring of so many entry level and junior tech jobs over the last decade by companies keen to slash their IT costs means there were fewer ways for young people to get a start in the industry.

This has a knock-on effect; a lack of junior roles means fewer staff to fill senior tech roles down the line. As one senior industry figure told TechRepublic last year: "As a collective industry, we let it go too far."

The type of work apprentices will do depends on the level of the apprenticeship. For example an intermediate level apprenticeship might include work on a helpdesk while a higher apprenticeship would expose them to life as a project manager.

Tech companies are promoting this route into the industry as part of the UK's national apprenticeship week. Karen Price, CEO of tech industry body e-skills UK said: "Employers are telling us that apprenticeships have a critical role to play in building the sustainable talent pipeline which is so urgently needed to ensure the UK's global leadership in tech innovation."

Clive Selley, chief executive of BT's technology, service and operations said there is a danger that not enough people in the UK are getting the training they need to work in research, development and innovative new industries.

As a result the telecoms giant plans to offer 730 apprenticeships to school and college leavers in the areas of engineering, software design, IT support, finance and logistics. It has also created a 'digital media technology apprenticeship' aimed at giving new recruits experience of web development, networking and digital media distribution.

BT also plans to offer 1,500 vocational training and work experience placements for unemployed 18 to 24 year olds over the next 18 months, and is hiring 300 new graduates.A large number of BT's graduate and apprentice intake will be based at BT's research campus at Adastral Park, near Ipswich in Suffolk.

Technology services company Fujitsu currently has 130 apprentices employed by the business in intermediate and advanced apprenticeships.

The company said while it is also hiring graduates there are too few science, technology, engineering or maths grads to meet demand, and so is investing more in apprentices, and is planning to fund 14 apprentices through higher apprenticeships, the equivalent to a degree.

Apprenticeships may also help address the ongoing gender gaps in tech as 29 percent of  current apprentices at Fujitsu are female – 19 percent higher than the industry average.

Tech companies including Accenture, BT, Capgemini, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft are also working on a pilot of new apprenticeship standards in software development and networking which could be in place before the end of the year.

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About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

8 comments
Deanskillsteam
Deanskillsteam

IT apprenticeships, are a really good way to develop the gap in IT support skills within the UK Workforce. However there is a stigma that only young people can benefit from such a program and it is not available to those that are older and in an IT Support Role.


The company I work for, actually offers the full MCSA server 2012, combined within apprenticeship, which is fully funded by the Skills funding agency.


So far a lot off the ICT support workers that are going through this program, are people in there mid 20s, right the way through to late 40s.


williamjacobs
williamjacobs

"Socialist" countries heavily subsidize colleges and a great many STEM grads get "born" that way.

We lure them over here with indentured servitude offers called H1-B visas. (Why are these valuable people not made available to the highest bidder rather than a single "master"? Does teh free makret NOT provide the best allocation of resources in this one area for some reason?


We expect employres to pay for training their employees. After which they must pay this tuition themselves if they leave the company, but they get poiached anyway because the company can hire a freshly trained tech and pays for the tuition but does NOT have to pay for all the downtime from teh tech having been away (maybe on paid leave)


Result?  Companies take a financial hit whenever they develop their staff.


We could have the federal government take this "hit" instead of corporations but deficit spending has been made into the ultimate boogeyman. We are eating our seed corn. An entire generation of low skilled workers that is not compensated for the effort and risk of enormous student loans is being produced. This is not the same nation that put WWII vets through college by the truckload. That America sent men to the moon, built the federal highway system, and the most formidable military in history.


Today, we're in orbit, sharing a ride with a dozen other nations, our roads are crumbling because investing in infrastructure "costs too much", and..  well, we're still really great at killing things, but when military spending makes up more than half of the deficit, I should bloody well hope that we're still scary as heck.



williamjacobs
williamjacobs

STEM graduates are brought in from countries that have paid for the tuition in state colleges.


We could do that and

Cicuta2011
Cicuta2011

Excellent question! However, in order to fill the gap of IT skills after the damage has been done by companies, recruiters, and the lack of available technical people. I can recall when NASA went through the same crisis in the early 1970s and still the need is there. In order to narrow the skill gap, companies need to be more willing to trade earnings with programs to get people ready for a specific job, and this covers all aspects of technical personnel not only IT. First off, companies must have in-house training in concert with universities just as it was done 40 years ago; companies must be willing to hire junior or associates engineers and give them training and most of all ... be patient as know how cannot be attained in a matter of days nor with a two weeks or six months certification - know how takes time, dedication on part of the trainee, and support from the company.


Companies across the board have traded earnings with formation of good professionals and hence destroying what once was excellent in-house training for young engineers. Migration of technical people is also inevitable seeking better opportunities somewhere else and these companies ignore doing nothing to retain those people with better programs and opportunities to gain what is needed ...Know how!

pdriddell
pdriddell

I'm loving it !!!!

As one who lost their job due to the outsourcing in this country I hope it costs the IT industry mega bucks to hire home grown talent. This will be the result of having short sighted bumbling idiot leaders whose main goal was to please share holders by shipping support overseas. Let's see what the shareholders will have to say when the real cost of outsourcing comes home.

mbell
mbell

Another mistake the IT industry in America has made -- and continues to make -- is passing over applicants who have experience and credentials simply because they have been out of work for a while. The actual unemployment/underemployment rate in this country is in the 15% range. Think for a moment how that plays out on resumes being submitted for your job openings. You would rather hire a new graduate for an apprenticeship? Good luck with that.

Starman35
Starman35

This is something we could do in the USA as well. It would dispel the old canard that "there aren't enough" domestic STEM students to fill the demand, so we have to increase the H1-B visas. If this were true, employers should be knocking on our doors (I have 3 children holding B.S. Degrees in STEM fields, and none have a job in their fields.)

VortexCortex
VortexCortex

@Starman35  That's why you should tell your children to consider pursuing a new career in business or sales or any other field that is not STEM-related. These days, STEM is a lousy career choice because the pay is dreadful, the work conditions are poor, there is very little job security and that is getting worse and the career structure is lousy. 

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