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DWP searches for talent as part of apprenticeship programme

The Department of Work and Pensions is looking for diverse talent to fill software and networking roles while developing skills on the job

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a digital apprenticeship programme to train people in software and infrastructure engineering.

Successful candidates will earn a salary as part of the programme, while also working towards professional technical qualifications.

Simon McKinnon, chief digital information officer at DWP Digital, said: “This is a unique opportunity to join DWP Digital at a junior level and secure specialist skills to build a successful digital career.

“The apprenticeships provide an opportunity to gain technical skills in software development to build web applications which meet user needs. These may involve innovative technologies such as big data and analytics, artificial intelligence, micro services and APIs [application programming interfaces].”

There is currently a technology skills gap in the UK, with many adults not even having the basic digital skills for the workplace.

DWP’s apprenticeship opportunities, which aim to teach people technical skills while earning a salary, are based in the department’s digital hubs in Blackpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

There are 15 available places, with successful candidates receiving a permanent job in the Civil Service while they take part, and a salary of £27,565 for level four apprenticeships, and £31,989 for level six apprenticeships.

While taking part in the programme, apprentices will learn skills in big data, analytics, hybrid cloud, cyber security and software development, and will work on projects such as building responsive web apps, microservices and APIs for the department.

The technology sector is not currently very diverse, with a low number of women and people from minority groups and communities in tech industry roles – DWP stated that applications from underrepresented groups in UK tech are “actively encouraged” so that those working within the department represent its diverse customer base.

As part of the apprenticeship programme, those taking part will get the chance to work on projects “that make a positive impact on millions of people’s lives” as part of the role, while taking part in “virtual learning” such as research projects and one-on-one time with coaches, tutors and mentors.

Ian Balmain used the programme to change careers, originally having experience in risk management, project delivery and live support before taking part in the software engineering apprenticeship.

He claimed DWP has been increasingly working towards digitising services, which has become even more important during the pandemic.  

While Balmain used the apprenticeship as a way to shift from one career to another, others are increasingly using apprentices as an alternative route into the technology sector rather than going to university.

Lizy Gibson, who is now completing a Level 3 Microsoft Infrastructure Technician apprenticeship with DWP, has earned a level 3 qualification in “something I never thought I would”.

Gibson started her apprenticeship at the DWP Newcastle office with the user administration team after dropping out of a fine art degree, and has learnt technical skills alongside earning a salary.

She said: “I was interested in learning about something new and something that would enable me to have a wide range of job opportunities and prospects.

“My apprenticeship has enabled me to gain work experience while studying and has definitely opened a lot of doors for me. The course included things like scripting and coding, networking and business processes. I now have a Level 3 qualification in something I never thought I would, and I’m working for the UK’s biggest government department with constant new opportunities arising.”

Once the apprenticeships come to an end, those who took part will have access to careers in DWP Digital or within other government departments.

Applications are open until 7 September 2020, and those successful will receive full benefits, and can work remotely while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing.

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