WILL THE GOVERNMENT APPRENTICE SCHEME WORK?

In June, the government kick-started its plans to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 by giving them equal legal treatment as degrees. This is welcome news at a time when 44% of IT companies in the UK are saying the digital skills gap is affecting staff productivity.

To boost the number of apprenticeships, the Government promised to invest £2 for every £1 of contribution made by the company, up to the maximum cap set for each standard. But with this commitment only on a ‘trial’ basis, we shall have to wait what happens. The Government also invested a staggering £18 million into Tech Partnership – a growing, inclusive network of employers who are committed to creating the skills to grow in the global digital economy.

Promoted as a unique opportunity to boost the nation’s tech skills by addressing critical issues that are holding back the economy, the Tech Partnership aims to accelerate the flow of talented people from all backgrounds into technology careers. The partnership’s recent forecasting work with Experian suggests the Government is already having a positive effect.

Published in September, the figures show that the number of UK tech specialists is predicted to rise from 1.2 million in 2014 to 1.6 million in 2024. This would represent a 28% increase compared with an 8% increase for workers across other industries as a whole. And the area most likely to see growth? Web design and development professionals with 57% growth expected by 2024.

But the IT industry itself is not entirely convinced by the Government’s plans. In an article by Graham Hunter, vice president of skills certifications at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), he states that there has been “overwhelming feedback from SMEs that cash incentives alone will not work because the IT channel lacks confidence in the quality of many apprentices and apprenticeship training providers.”

He goes on to say “IT firms cannot take on the number of apprentices needed to meet the government’s target, or give apprenticeships the same status as degrees, until they can trust the quality of training providers as much as they trust universities.” From this feedback, CompTIA is creating a directory of authorised training providers and an apprenticeships guide. This will help SMEs identify the best places to find apprentices with skills and qualifications in their area.

The Change Organisation is a strong supporter of apprenticeship programmes and has had tremendous success with apprentices – employing a number of local young people and accessing funding for their role including training at college. While we provide employment and development opportunities, we are not incurring the immediate pressure of inflated overheads so it’s hugely beneficial to both parties.

But will the Government’s latest scheme get more people into apprenticeships? Only time will tell. But it is important that the Government starts listening to the SMEs, as well as multinational giants, to get a more comprehensive idea of how to meet the apprenticeship target. If the IT industry is to hit its 3 million target, we need every voice to be heard – no matter how big or small.

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