From education to employment

The importance of technology apprenticeships

Claire Findlay, Head of Technology Apprenticeship Programme, Barclays

Increasingly, technology is at the heart of everything we do, and is integral to the success of our economy, but there is a shortage of digital skills across the UK workforce. In 2014, there were 1.4 million jobs in the digital sector and research from The Tech Partnership, a network of employers collaborating to create the skills for the UK digital economy, suggests that by 2023 there will be a requirement of 1 million new people to meet the demand.

Whilst there is a pipeline of talent from Universities, it is still not meeting needs of businesses across the spectrum, and the effect of this is being felt across the industry – from tech start-ups through to some of the biggest players in the tech world. This runs the risk of us not having the skills we need to ensure our technology industry continues to thrive in the coming years.

Technology Apprenticeships are opening up another recruitment channel to meet this demand and many organisations are starting this journey, but as technology can vary greatly from role to role and company to company, it has still been a challenge to meet the skills shortage. The previous NVQ qualifications system struggled because it was not clear how apprentices were able to transfer their taught skills into the workplace due to the fact they weren’t learning on the job. Additionally, whilst organisations were willing to take on technology apprentices, it has been difficult to meet both the needs of the business and the apprentice.

This began to change with the introduction of the new Trailblazer Apprenticeships, which opened up so many possibilities across the technology arena. This, combined with the insights and determination of The Tech Partnership, founding universities and a community of forward thinking businesses of all sizes, brought the Digital and Technology Solutions Degree to life.

Developing this new apprenticeship was a challenge, as the needs of each organisation varied greatly. The key challenges were developing a programme that would cater for broad understanding as well as deep technical knowledge, and needing a curriculum that was flexible enough to allow for the fast pace of change that occurs in the industry.

The first cohorts started in September 2015 – just two years ago – and half way through the degree programme the impact is already clear. Apprentices have benefitted from learning whilst earning, and realising their ambitions and potential through a combination of study and applied learning in the workplace. Universities have also fed back positively that the apprentices are highly motivated and their performance has benefitted from being able to apply insight from their experiences to their studies.

Businesses too are already seeing high performance in the workplace, thanks to our programme stretching and challenging the cohorts. Robust skills are being taught and brought straight back into the workplace, either through applied knowledge or wider challenge. The benefits continue to evolve for the business through other measures including retention; opportunity to address some areas of diversity (51% of the Barclays cohorts 2015 and 2016 were female) and so on.

The programme is a game-changer for technology apprenticeships and enables access to advanced roles for people for whom the costs of university were not accessible. Thanks to this, it brings further credence to apprenticeships being an equal alternative pathway for school-leavers to traditional university routes.

The Technology degree programme is a game-changer for technology apprenticeships

High quality and relevant learning will help to grow strong technical capability for our organisations and enable access to advanced roles for those whom the costs of university were not accessible, bringing further credence to apprenticeships being an equal alternative pathway for school-leavers to traditional university routes.

The launch of the programme two years ago was simply the start of the journey. The continued investment of time and collaboration between employers and academia will provide a platform for more coverage of the technical landscape, allowing more roles to be accessed through this approach. This has already begun with the recent introductions of new specialist pathways, such as cyber security.

The new technology apprenticeship has been recognised as a vehicle to access emerging technology, whilst simultaneously addressing the shortage of legacy and highlights the importance of continuing to invest in tailored apprenticeship schemes to develop the skills of the future, across all industries.

Claire Findlay, Head of Technology Apprenticeship Programme, Barclays

Claire Findlay has worked for Barclays for over nine years and is currently Head of Technology Apprenticeship Programme, and has hired in excess of 700 Apprentices into Technical roles in the organisation since 2010. Claire champions diversity in hiring to drive a more balanced number of women in technology.  She is also an Ambassador for the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and proactively supports the development of robust technology curriculum for schools and apprenticeships in the role of employer advisor.

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