Christine Hodgson, chairman at Capgemini UK, on the need to embrace apprenticeships

A guest blog post from Christine Hodgson, chairman at Capgemini UK, about the need for the IT sector to embrace apprenticeships

With the latest youth unemployment figures at around one million, it’s very disappointing that just 2% of the technology sector currently employs apprentices. This is compared to 20% of companies who took on an apprentice in the year to April 2011, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.

The good news is the picture is changing. Apparently 21% of the technology sector plan to hire apprentices in the future which will put us somewhere near the national average.

Capgemini hosted a roundtable discussion recently, supported by Business in the Community, to review IT apprenticeships and to gauge the appetite of the technology sector to work together and create a national standard. Since this meeting, which was attended by 50 different organisations, we have agreed a Charter with our industry colleagues.

The Charter contains commitments to create more apprenticeships in our sector and to develop nationally recognised career paths for entry at apprentice level. This will build on the work already done by E-skills and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). It will be used to market to schools and careers advisers so young people can understand the different entry points to our sector.

One of the challenges is convincing the sector that school leavers are ready to add value to their company. Across all sectors, employers still have concerns about the quality of candidates and their qualifications.

At Capgemini, we believe that as long as young people have a certain level of intelligence and enthusiasm, we can train them in the skills that they need. Invest and nurture young talent and you will reap the benefits.

I would challenge all employers to look at their workforce and consider what an injection of enthusiasm and energy junior support might provide. I champion junior talent for a number of reasons:

–    To secure talent for roles in the rapidly changing world of technology
–    To grow our own talent in skills that are scarce in the market
–    To bring energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas
–    To bring a new source of committed individuals as the retention of apprentices tends to be higher than average
–    To develop our leaders of the future

Capgemini has its own Higher Apprentice degree programme, with the first 34 higher apprentices joining Capgemini in 2011. It’s a five-year programme of work experience and study which enables attainment of a BSc in Computing and IT Practice from the Open University and a Level 4 Diploma in IT Professional Competence from QA Training.

This enables young people to train and gain qualifications without the debts of going to University.

I firmly believe that junior talent can play a key role in all organisations not just the technology sector and I would urge all employers to embrace apprenticeship schemes – it is not onerous and there are real benefits for the individual and for business.