London IT sector highlighted in damning report on apprenticeships

The London IT sector is one of the worst performers in terms of creating apprenticeships, according to a report

The London IT sector is one of the worst performers in terms of creating apprenticeships and interventions are required for improvement, according to a London Assembly report.

The Trained in London report from the London Assembly Economy Committee showed London created the least apprenticeships in the UK except from the North East, with 77,110 in 2012/13.

The IT sector was shamed as part of a group of industries that have strength in London yet fail to create enough apprentice opportunities.

"More specific interventions are needed to improve apprenticeships in London. Notably, sectors such as construction, IT, leisure, travel and tourism – where London has particular strengths – are among the worst performing sectors in terms of the proportion of apprenticeships created,” said the report.

Member of the economy committee Stephen Knight said London is falling behind the rest of the country when it comes to apprenticeships, despite having one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the UK.

“The mayor must use his power and influence to make sure London is not left behind in terms of skills and employment opportunities for young people. London should be investing in its future, if we are to remain the engine of the UK’s economy,” he said.

The report makes recommendations including using procurement as an incentive for getting businesses to create apprenticeships and a deterrent to them not doing so. This could see the big-spending London public sector buy goods and services from businesses that create them, including IT suppliers.

The report also said an apprenticeship action plan should be set up to deliver the mayor’s target of 250,000 apprenticeships. Additionally, it said firms and sectors that create the most jobs in London should be targeted and a pan-London careers advice service should be created to highlight apprenticeships to young people.

Existing IT apprenticeship programmes

IT suppliers are willing participants in apprenticeship programmes if it sheds them in good light with the public and potentially lucrative customers. In a UK-wide programme launched in 2012, IT service providers agreed to take on more IT apprentices to help bridge the gap between education and the workplace, as part of a government-backed scheme.

The Ministry of Justice and private charity Business in the Community have backed the project. 

Nine of the biggest UK IT service providers have also agreed to a charter for employing IT apprentices. Accenture, Atos, Capgemini, CSC, Fujitsu, HP, Logica, Siemens and Steria have all signed up to the scheme, which aims to help students further their careers in IT.

In September 2014, Accenture expanded its apprenticeship programme to London. The technology apprenticeship programme recruited 20 apprentices in Newcastle, where it was launched in 2012.

At the recent Labour Party conference, leader Ed Miliband pledged for more high-quality UK apprenticeships – instead of using large volumes of overseas workers.

Labour has said if it wins the next election, offshore IT services firms will be forced to create an apprenticeship in the UK for every worker hired, to increase job opportunities for young people.

Indian companies are often criticised because their business models mean UK IT workers are replaced by lower-cost workers from India. But they want to be seen in a more positive light. 

Infosys, for example, has pledged to create 100 UK apprenticeship places over the next five years through a programme set up in conjunction with the National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS).

Read more on IT technical skills