The number of people starting ICT apprenticeships has plummeted, despite a surge in applicants fighting for positions at tech companies.
According to a report by government body the Skills Funding Agency, only 13,060 people started ICT apprenticeships in 2013/14, a decline of 33% from the previous year. In 2011/12, 19,520 students were recorded to have started apprenticeships.
The figures are the lowest recorded in three years, however the number of ICT apprenticeship applicants has almost trebled from 48,350 in 2010/11 to 133,800 in 2013/14. This equates to more than 10 applicants for every ICT apprenticeship, whereas in 2010/11 this figure was only 2.5.
In response to the report, tax adviser and accountant to IT contractors SJD Accountancy said the tax breaks announced by George Osborne in the recent Autumn Statement will hopefully encourage more employers to offer apprenticeships.
Businesses employing young apprentices will have their job tax scrapped after the chancellor of the exchequer announced more support for “the businesses that create jobs and apprenticeships”.
More on IT skills
From April 2016, employers will not have to pay National Insurance contributions for all but the highest-earning apprentices aged under 25.
SJD Accountancy CEO Simon Currey said the jump in apprenticeship applications shows there is growing appetite among candidates for ICT careers.
"The concern is that employers are not being provided with the right encouragement to take on and train young professionals,” he said.
“The UK has historically suffered from an underproduction of IT skills. It is therefore critical the talent pipeline is kept full, and apprenticeships have a key role to play in bringing fresh blood into the industry.”
The focus on apprenticeships is laudable, added Currey, but the vast majority of apprentices are young: “Much more could be done to help senior IT professionals update their skills and increase their market value.
“If training was a tax-deductible business expense, both contractors and permanent IT professionals would benefit, and the match between the skills of people in the workforce and the skills users need would be improved.”
IT professionals failing to use annual leave
In further news, a report by Robert Walters has revealed more than a third (36%) of IT workers fail to take all of their entitled annual leave.
Companies that encourage staff to take their annual leave are likely to earn a reputation as an attractive place to work
James Murray, Robert Walters
Half of those surveyed said the most common reason for failing to use holiday was pressure to complete a project or having annual leave requests turned down due to heavy workloads. One in four said they cannot afford to take holiday.
Other reasons included loyalty to the company or brand and guilt at leaving colleagues with extra work.
Many admitted to finishing the year with too many spare holiday days to roll over to the following year.
Robert Walters associate director James Murray said as the race to attract the best candidates accelerates, it's important businesses stand out from the competition.
“In addition to minimising the risks posed by burnout and low morale, companies that encourage staff to take their annual leave are likely to earn a reputation as an attractive place to work," he said.
“Close liaison with human resources, including tracking annual leave use and reminding employees to take regular holiday, is one way of doing this. By scheduling workloads appropriately and organising cover in advance, you will also give them the opportunity to fully ‘switch off’ while away from the office.”