Apprenticeships with IT services firms are plugging a gaping hole in the UK IT skills pipeline created by a combination of the high-cost of studying and reduced opportunities with in-house IT.
Tuition fees are putting people off studying at university, the economic environment is reducing opportunities in IT departments and the continued take-up of outsourced services is taking away the first rung on the IT career ladder within IT departments, for many wannabe IT professionals.
When 23 year old Lewis Park pulled out of his Computer Science degree, because he could no longer afford to continue, he started working in retail to try and save up the cash to complete his study.
“The cost put me off and after I finished the first year I looked for a full-time job,” says Lewis. But he did not give up completely as IT was always something that interested him in career terms.
Park came across Capgemini’s apprenticeship programme while browsing jobs boards.
Through the Capgemini programme GCSE and equivalent level students can do an 18-month advanced apprenticeship programme. Those with A-levels or equivalent can do a five-year higher apprenticeship/sponsored degree programme. These include 12 weeks at the Capgemini National Apprentice Training Centre, followed by on the job training.
Capgemini is part of a government-backed project that saw nine UK IT service providers agree to take on more IT apprentices to help bridge the gap between education and the workplace. Other participating IT services firms include Accenture, Atos, CSC, Fujitsu, HP, Logica, Siemens and Steria.
Park applied for the five year course and was accepted. After uprooting from Glasgow to move to London he embarked on the course and is now six months in.
His experience so far has been positive. “Doing an apprenticeship at a service provider is good because it is a lot more dynamic than being in an end user business. You can try lots of different things and work in lots of different places.”
He said service providers enable IT apprentices to pick up diverse experiences within different organisations rather than in siloes. He is currently working at an energy supplier within its Enterprise Content Management (ECM) team.
Park said that apprenticeships add something more than a university course. “There is a difference between what you learn on courses and what you do in the world of IT.”
Other service providers running apprenticeship programme include Accenture and Infosys.
For example outsourcing services giant Accenture has launched an apprenticeship programme in Newcastle, offering 40 places on the three-year programme over the next 12 months, while Indian service provider Infosys is offering over 100 UK apprenticeship places through a programme set up in conjunction the National Apprenticeship Scheme) over the next five years.
Service providers have a role in educating government to help their policies to generate IT skills relate to what businesses need.
Last year Azim Premji, chairman at Indian IT outsourcing firm Wipro, offered to take UK students to India for 12 months to be trained up in software, IT and engineering. The idea emerged when Premji met Prime Minister David Cameron when he travelled to India in 2010. Premji and Cameron had talked about education and in particular the shortcomings of IT and engineering education.
In the Wipro programme students would receive three months classroom based training and nine months work based training.