Can apprenticeships halt the tech brain drain?

As the economy recovers, a return to training could help some organizations hold onto the tech smarts they need.

Apprenticeships could help reduce the impact of an expected IT brain drain on the public sector as private sector recruitment rises on the back of a recovering economy.

As the economy picks up top tech staff may be persuaded away from the public sector by the bigger pay packets and better promotion potential offered by the private sector. According to public sector IT body Socitm this is a "looming problem for the sector", and it warns that public sector employers in the southeast of England are already reporting "severe competition" from the finance sector in London.

It says apprenticeships could be the answer: apprenticeships, available to anyone over 16, combine practical training in a job with formal study. The apprentice spends time in the workplace while studying - usually a day a week - towards a related qualification. The benefits of 'home-grown' candidates include having skills that exactly match organizational needs, a good understanding of the culture and "knowledge of informal networks that help get things done efficiently and effectively".

Socitm's said that this sort of IT workforce planning was still very low on the agenda for most local public services; only 15 percent of respondents to its research were able to say workforce planning was either 'developed' or 'highly developed' within their organization.

It said ideally the IT department should have a succession plan in place for every role, and should work out how apprentices could map on to that plan.

But it's not just cash-strapped local government that is turning to apprenticeships; businesses are also looking at them as a way of bridging the skills gap created by years of offshoring entry-level jobs to save on costs.

The number of IT apprenticeships has increased rapidly: around 24,000 people have started an IT apprenticeship in the past two years, 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.

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