Can businesses afford not to have IT apprentices?

Tech Partnership highlights benefits of apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week

Businesses need to ask themselves not whether they can afford to take on an apprentice, but whether they can afford not to, according to Tech Partnership.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Tech Partnership is highlighting the benefits apprentices offer a business, in addition to helping to kick-start a young person’s career.

“Ask any successful IT business in the UK what their biggest issue is, and they’ll tell you it is getting hold of the qualified people they need to grow,” said Hugh Milward, director of corporate affairs at Microsoft UK.

“Our research shows that taking on a Microsoft apprentice makes an enormous difference for the businesses that get involved, and also for the apprentices themselves, which is why we’ll be working to create 3,500 more opportunities by the end of 2015.

“Ultimately though, employers need to ask themselves not 'can I afford to take on an apprentice?' but 'can I afford not to?'.”

Last year, the total tech workforce of 1,726,000 people contributed £91.1bn to the UK economy, with research reporting that industry specialists were more likely to be employed full-time (93%) than the UK workforce as a whole (73%). 

But the industry is lacking 134,000 skilled people to fill necessary tech roles each year.

In 2013/14 only 2.6% of all pupils took computing at GCSE and 13.5% were working towards an information technology GCSE. In the same year, computing and information technology together only represented 1.6% of all A-levels.

Tech Partnership chairman Phil Smith said fantastic, life-long career opportunities for young people can start with an apprenticeship in tech. 

“Tech Partnership companies including Accenture, BT, Cisco, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung and TCS are working to triple the number of IT apprentices, and deliver the skills for a million new digital jobs over the coming decade,” he added.

“We want to ensure that more young people are equipped with the knowledge that they need to make informed choices about their education and careers, and this includes the tremendous benefits of apprenticeships. Apprentices have the chance to work on the front line of tech, whether that’s developing ground-breaking technology that will change how we all live and work, or helping to protect business through cyber security measures,” said Smith.

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Learn and earn as an IT apprentice

In November 2014, Tech Partnership launched the Degree Apprenticeship which allows young people to work towards a university degree while earning a salary and gaining experience of being in the workplace.

Smith said more than 160 students are signed up to start the course in September 2015.

He also highlighted the employer-led Tech Industry Gold accreditation programme, which was designed to ensure apprenticeship courses are up to scratch.

Emma McGuigan, managing director of Accenture Technology, UK and Ireland, said it is vital that the tech sector opens up a variety of routes to ensure it attracts as many talented young people to the industry as possible.

“By offering a range of entry points, we are able to build up a multi-skilled workforce from a variety of educational and social backgrounds. A university degree may not be for everyone and apprenticeships offer an equally valuable route into IT careers,” she said.

Jacqui Ferguson, senior vice-president, UK and Ireland, at HP Enterprise Services, said the technology industry is an interesting and exciting place to develop a career.

“It gives you the opportunity to work across many different vertical sectors. HP is committed to supporting the education and development of young people to increase their employability. In addition to other initiatives, we are investing in our apprenticeship programmes to help us develop the technology skills we need for our business,” she said.

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