Apprenticeships can help individuals to develop valuable skills, increase their employability and gain higher earning potential, as well as enabling businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills – encapsulated by this year’s theme: #BuildTheFuture.
The digital skills gap carries significant implications for almost every sector, but especially tech. A recent Skillsoft report found that 76 percent of IT decision makers worldwide are facing critical skills gaps in their departments – a 145 percent increase since 2016.
“With the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’ and the rate of technology change outpacing organisations’ existing skills development programs, organisations must cast their net wider to ensure there isn’t a dearth of talent they need in order to grow,” explains Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft.
“In the technology industry, a formal ‘technical background’ has long been viewed as a minimum requirement to get on the career ladder. However, In some forward-thinking companies, there is a higher level of value now being placed on soft skills, such as creativity, persuasion and collaboration. More organisations are also recognising that employees can build specialist technical skills via alternative routes from attending university such as apprenticeships or on the job training.”
“Offering incentives for new apprentice hires opens up the candidate pool to allow companies, especially smaller companies, to take advantage of talent that may have previously been overlooked due to a lack of experience,” agrees Jennifer Locklear, Chief People Officer at ConnectWise.
“Experienced leaders are critical to business continuity and continued success. With apprenticeship schemes, small and mid-sized companies can invest in building leaders from the ground up, instead of relying on a candidate pool that may have previously been cost prohibitive.”
Apprenticeships are not just an opportunity to build and grow leaders. “The development of digital skills means that companies can learn key skills to automate manual processes, understand the software available to streamline their businesses, and shift their focus to increased profitability,” Locklear adds.
“From an employee standpoint, showing them the roadmap for their job security and continued growth will change their focus from the uncertainty of the last year to productivity and career advancement.”
Nowakowska furthers, “with demand for digital-native talent at a premium, and the very nature of job roles evolving fast, apprenticeships can help bridge the gap – both for the skills needed within the organisation today, and looking ahead to the future. Mutually beneficial, employees can perfect their core craft and branch out to learn new skills – building a strong growth foundation for the wider organisation.”
While the technology industry is facing a significant skills shortage, there is also a serious labour problem occurring amongst young people in the UK. “In fact, according to think tank’s Resolution Foundation, although unemployment amongst 18 – 24-year-olds has fallen to 9.8%, many of these workers are not in secure employment,” Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, explains – “for example with temporary contracts, zero-hours arrangements, agency work or variable hours.
“So, although there are plenty of young people in insecure jobs who would benefit from full-time employment and training, there is a disconnect between this group and the skills needed in the UK job market. But, what can be done to change this?”
“Apprenticeship schemes can be a great way of bringing promising individuals into the industry – giving them the tools, experience and practice needed to excel, and prove their return on investment,” Storrar adds.
Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile, furthers: “It can be difficult for people without experience to secure jobs in tech – sometimes simply because they don’t feel confident enough in their own ability to apply. Apprenticeships provide that stepping stone where the person learns the job while being paid to train, and the company has the chance to train a potential future employee. It’s a win-win situation.”
As well as helping bridge ongoing skills gaps, apprenticeships provide emerging talent the opportunity to learn new skills on the job, gain nationally-recognised qualifications and earn a salary.
“As a business, we have also benefited from a talent pool of enthusiastic, fresh-faced individuals who have become valuable members of the Node4 team,” highlights Sadie Wilde, Leadership and Talent Development Partner, Node4. “Our colleagues across the business also love getting involved in supporting the development of our new apprentices on our emerging talent programmes.”
“We also utilise apprenticeships to develop our people to achieve their career goals and to plug any skills gaps that we potentially have in the business. We’re passionate about supporting our colleagues to enhance their career prospects through gaining qualifications and an apprenticeship is a great way to build their skills and knowledge.”
Supporting apprentices has become more difficult over the last two years, with the country in and out of lockdowns, and with the widespread shift to remote working. However, this should allow organisations an opportunity to rethink their approach to hiring apprentices.
“As the world of work and talent landscape continue to evolve, finding and nurturing local and remote talent through these sorts of schemes will help organisations thrive in their market and begin to close the digital skills gap,” Storrar concludes.
Organisational culture is evolving and continued action to recruit and upskill employees will be instrumental as organisations face shrinking talent pools and a surge in demand for talent driven by digital transformation. This National Apprenticeship Week, more organisations should consider how apprenticeship schemes can help future-proof their organisation as the skill crisis continues.”