What is the true value of IT apprenticeships?

Despite disappointing apprenticeship numbers, learning on the job is a valid route into IT—right up to the top

Recent official figures show that the UK government’s apprenticeship levy has had a lacklustre initial take-up. Despite being in effect since April, by August only around half of the roughly 20,000 eligible companies had registered for the fund. Of those that did register, many were using it in unconventional ways that arguably go against the spirit of the scheme. Sending executives on MBA courses isn’t really what an apprenticeship is all about.

It could be argued that any boost to business is a good boost, but if used wisely the levy has the potential to change one industry more than any other—the IT industry.

Technology is one of the few careers in which the lack of a degree isn’t necessarily a barrier to success. Anyone in this industry over 40 years of age probably graduated when computer science degrees were in their infancy, if they existed at all. People now in their late 40s and 50s doubtless knew more than their teachers, having grown up with early home computers rather than being taught about them in abstract terms.

Obviously the IT industry has moved on in leaps and bounds since those days. It’s more structured, organised and formalised. As a result, there are clear educational paths into various IT careers. IDG Connect has covered these in detail in the past, with discussions about the value of Computer Science degrees compared to alternative routes.

But good minds can and do find other routes into IT. People who aren’t necessarily best served by a three-year academic degree can jump in from the side lines. Any list of successful people without degrees is likely to include a significant number of IT people.

This is true of the UK perhaps more so than anywhere else except the US. While interviewing three executives at VMware recently—Richard Bennett (head of Advisory Services EMEA), David Phull (vice president and general manager UK&I) and Colin Bannister (Northern EMEA head of Presales)—it emerged that none of them has a university degree.

To continue reading this article register now

7 secrets of successful remote IT teams