Why we need to create a single portal for apprenticeships

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed post, Cloud9 Insight CEO Carlene Jackson explains why she recently told an All-Party Parliamentary Group the UK needs to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for apprenticeships if it is to address the tech skills gaps.

As the UK prepares to rebuild its economy following the toughest of years, those in the tech sector know better than most that their industry has a massive skills gap. So many businesses offering IT services, cyber-security and software could be growing faster, if only they could find the talent. Yet, at the same time, young people and many who have recently lost jobs or are currently furloughed are desperately looking for job opportunities and training.

Our failure to train enough people in the past has led to drastic shortages in UK born talent. Almost half my technically skilled employees are originally from overseas. A recent report by McKinsey suggests the situation is likely to get worse and predicts big skills shortages throughout the 2020s.

Manual labour and administrative jobs will decline as bots and automation take over the menial work. However, there will still be huge demand for highly skilled people and many higher value roles.

Apprenticeships can be a great way to address skills shortages. I’ve personally taken on many apprentices since founding my business in 2010 and have reaped the rewards of doing so. I’ve seen people with few skills and an uncertain future transformed into fully-fledged tech professionals with in-demand skills. One young woman joined me as a shy teenager and, three years later, was working for a tech company on £40,000, with the confidence to match that salary. This is the sort of message we should be giving to young people.

If someone wants to find the right university course, they can log into Unifrog, as can their parents, teachers and friends. There is currently no comparable hub for apprenticeships.  The government has a Find an Apprenticeship service, but this doesn’t list all apprenticeships or provide the sort of service we need.

I recently urged an All-Party Parliamentary Group to back the creation of a single, online hub or portal for apprenticeships. As an employer, parent and apprenticeship provider I would love a
central place for people to have visibility of what apprenticeship positions are available across the country.

Such a hub would significantly accelerate consideration and adoption of apprenticeships. It could also serve as a source of facts, resources and inspiring apprenticeship stories to support other employers and apprentices. I believe it would benefit those from diverse backgrounds that may not usually make it through the usual interview process, and prove very useful to source future talent. It could also act as a place for employers to find and attract apprentices, and even to consider which apprenticeship courses they would like to offer.

We need to make apprenticeships flexible, allow for more of the training to take place online. They also need to be shorter. If they were nine months and matched the academic year, that would be a lot more practical, the drop-out rate would be lower and then employers may be more likely to make the investment.

The UK has some big challenges ahead of it. However, there’s a groundswell of desire for change, so I hope we can unify our actions, fix the skills gap, create jobs and use technology to solve our problems and get our economy firing again.

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