Should CIOs implement an IT apprenticeship scheme?

A shortage of skilled IT professionals still plagues the technology sphere. CIO UK's research indicates that 69% of CIOs find it difficult to recruit the skills they need to drive transformation. Other findings from Tech City indicate that 25% of the UK's digital tech community cite sourcing new talent as a 'major challenge'.

Could offering an apprenticeship scheme open up a wider pool of potential candidates? Currently, 65% of organisations CIO UK sampled offer an IT apprenticeship scheme.

For the 86% of CIOs we sampled who said recruitment and retention has risen up their agenda as a CIO, is an apprenticeship scheme something to consider?

Some CIO 100 companies currently running these schemes include Clydesdale Banking Group, AstraZeneca, Barclays Bank and United Utilities. While among the companies not currently offering them are CapitalOne, Age UK and Tata Steel.

Speaking to CIO UK in 2016, Geoff Connell, Head of Information Management and Technology at Norfolk County Council discussed the range of schemes he had implemented during his time as as a CIO at Newham and Having Councils in London.

"We get kids who are on a gap year, from schools and universities for work experience and place them across different areas of the council. It's a win-win situation getting the kids in who don't have work experience, but are inquisitive bringing fresh ideas and energy," said Connell. "The bottom line is that we have to recruit younger talent because we can't bring in top-skilled people from various different areas who do not have the necessary skills. I think it is an exciting place for people to come and learn their trade."

The demand for experience in emerging fields such as Big Data, cloud computing and cybersecurity is growing alongside IT budgets. Research shows that 56% of UK IT managers are increasing the IT budget in 2018.

In 2016, David Wilde, then CIO at Essex County Council, told CIO UK about the benefits of the council's recent training programme. "In terms of recruitment the programme drew in younger people with social and disability challenges, that have helped develop effective work skills," said Wilde. "The apprentices either remain with us as employees or find future employment in IT elsewhere."

Hiring through apprenticeship schemes can widen the pool of applicants beyond typical candidates.

"We have an 'agile apprentice' scheme, taking us to a total of four apprentices each year …favouring a younger and more diverse team. We also actively support Codebar, a technology-training organisation primarily aimed at creating a diverse pool of tech talent in the UK," says Mark Ridley, CIO at Reed to CIO UK.

This is encouraging, given that diverse workplaces have been demonstrated to be more productive and effective.

Edinburgh City Councilalso operates apprenticeship schemes. CIO Claudette Jones discussed with CIO UK how the digital apprentices are impacting work culture.

"The hiring is a change from our normal graduate programme," said Jones. "The apprentices have reduced the average age of the team and are willing to be very hands-on. We also have targets around SME involvement, with new jobs in the city and modern apprenticeships."

At international energy and services company Centrica, whose apprenticeship schemes span entry-level software developer positions up to high-level cybersecurity roles, taking on apprentices has resulted in a seven percent increase in productivity and six percent increase in staff loyalty.

Ruth South, Head of Graduate & Apprentice Programmes at technology consulting firm, Capgemini corroborates this.

"I think if you bring apprentices in and even graduates, any form of junior level talent, it's about showing them that longevity in your organisation and how you're going to develop them," South told Computerworld UK. "From a retention point of view, we have fantastic retention in our apprenticeship programme, over 90% of the people stay more than five years."

For those not already employing them, apprenticeship schemes offer an effective way to recruit from a wider and more diverse pool of candidates and create new skills in a loyal workforce. They could be an important part of the solution to the IT talent shortage currently affecting numerous industries across the UK.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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