The Treasury may have just switched off the £3,000 incentive scheme that was launched to boost apprenticeships during the Covid pandemic, but there are still several valuable reasons for employers to consider recruiting apprenticeships into the tech Channel.

With reversing the skills shortage becoming a priority across the industry, apprenticeships are a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a young, motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.

In a recent YouGov survey:

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
  • 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

Apprenticeships in the Channel

Westcon-Comstor has a thriving apprenticeship programme. Donna Bain, SVP People & Development explains the benefits it has brought to their business:

“There are numerous benefits to running an apprenticeship programme, some of which are not always immediately obvious and are instead learned over time.

At Westcon-Comstor we take a socially responsible stance on the development of young people and having a strong apprenticeship scheme plays an important part in this. The pandemic has caused substantial difficulties for youth employment which can be positively addressed through the provision of apprenticeship schemes as a gateway to our industry.

Apprenticeship schemes also create a talent pipeline and allow employers to work on developing new starters into the type of employee that would complement their business in the long term, combatting the current skills shortage facing the channel. Specialist skills can be hard to access at a young age, so employers can instead find candidates that show the potential and character to develop the right skills over time.”

Lewis Simmonds, UK Channel & MM/SMB Director at Hewlett Packard Enterprises views their apprenticeship scheme as an opportunity to create a pipeline of early years talent:

“In the HPE Channel team, we run an IT sales program, where apprentices have the chance to take up the responsibility to drive engagement with small and medium sized customers (SMB). In the past three years we have built up our channel and SMB apprenticeship program here in the UK. We have an established career path for our apprentices to progress and follow a development journey where they have the opportunity to carry on their training with higher level apprenticeships.

Hiring apprentices brings a broader diversity of background, experiences and, consequently, thought, providing our teams a fresh perspective. Furthermore, the apprenticeship program has given many employees the opportunity to enhance their professional development, by providing leadership, coaching and mentoring opportunities which are personally rewarding and open up further career development opportunities. The enthusiasm the program has created on both sides is contagious.”

Could apprenticeships be the solution to the digital skills gap?

The digital skills gap is hampering the growth of so many industry sectors. According to a government study, 82% of all UK jobs now list digital skills as a requirement, but Lloyd Bank’s 2021 research on the same topic suggests that over a third of the UK workforce admit to not being digitally up to speed.

Surprisingly, it’s retail giant Marks and Spencer’s that is one of the first organisations to effectively address this growing digital skills gap with the launch of the world’s first data science and AI academy.

The academy will offer a Level 7 apprenticeship in data science and AI, in addition to their well-established Level 3 data technician and Level 4 data analyst apprenticeships, which were launched back in 2018.  

The cohort of 10 employees, which will extend to 14 in time, will be taught cutting-edge data science techniques spanning modelling, machine learning, automation, optimising business processes and implementing data-driven AI solutions. M&S hopes the new programme will enable the business to “unlock millions of pounds worth of untapped value.”

Another company quick to harness the potential of apprenticeships in tech is Multiverse. Set up by Tony Blair’s son Euan back in 2016, Multiverse now offers over 5,000 apprenticeships in Data Fellowship, Digital Marketing, Software Engineering, as well as Business and Project Management, matching applicants with employers including Google, Facebook and Morgan Stanley.

Euan’s company is now valued at a staggering £639 million. There is a reason Metaverse’s success has been built on just 6 niche industry roles, many of them in tech; they see them as the skills of the future!

The future of apprenticeships

The removal by the government of the £3,000 employers’ incentive is far from perfect, but the future of the apprenticeship system does look positive with employers, trade bodies and young people beginning to view it as a legitimate and valuable route to employment.

The government is pushing what it describes as a “skills revolution” based on vocational education with £170m earmarked for apprenticeships and training.

Google the words ‘Apprenticeships UK’ and the results makes for positive reading. Just this week Amazon announced 1,500 new apprentice roles in the UK in 2022 and Samsung launched their first UK apprenticeship programme offering successful applicants the opportunity to ‘earn and learn’.

Tamas Csejtei, People Team Director for the UK, Ireland & Europe Office at Samsung Electronics commented: “At Samsung, we work to inspire the world and shape the future through nurturing and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. With many school leavers across the UK keen to start their working lives, we want to provide an alternative way for more young people to find new and exciting career paths through our apprenticeship scheme.”

The pandemic has affected young people possibly more than any other sector of society, with 28% of 16- to 25-year-olds saying Covid has ruined their career dreams, while 65% believe competition to get a job has increased so much it feels impossible. (Coop Survey).

All Industry sectors should now be viewing apprenticeships as an opportunity to help this generation at the same time as attracting an enthusiastic and diverse pool of talent to their organisations.

Today’s apprenticeships are about gaining valuable experience, skills, and knowledge in innovative new industries. Global telecommunications provider, Vodafone, who offer a Digital Degree Apprenticeship along with many others, sums it up best as an opportunity to “attract talent from the generation that will own the future”.

Is it time for your organisation to be doing the same?

Further reading for employers