The skills gap is having an ongoing impact on the IT industry, with critical shortages especially in cyber security. One way to help produce people with the right skills is apprenticeships, says Matt Piddington.
For years, IT employers have complained that there aren’t enough workers with the skills they need. In today’s increasingly data-driven workplace, the European Commission believes there are over ¾ million unfilled jobs in the European IT sector alone.
The cost of this is staggering. Over the next decade, 14 G20 countries in an analysis by Accenture could miss out on as much as US$11.5 trillion of growth promised by IT if they can’t meet future skills demand.
The job market is failing both employers and employees. While positions are plentiful in industries shaped by technological innovation, many potential workers don’t have the skills IT providers require, and employers can’t find the people they need. But one potential solution: if students are given broader access to professional apprenticeship programmes, they would be able to develop the skills, experience and confidence to meet the needs of the IT industry and thereby closing the skills gap.
Good for your people
There has often been the perception that apprenticeships are for the younger generations of the workforce. This is not the case, apprenticeships are actively now being used to encourage diversity in the workplace and benefit all generations of new and existing employees.
As I previously highlighted in one of my earlier blogs, the demographic of employers is chasing, with an increase in proportion of employees over the age of 55. According to data from the European Labour Force Survey, this currently make up 16% of the total workforce in the European Union. In countries such as Germany, Finland and Sweden, the number of mature workers is closer to one in five. As a comparison, for every 10 Gen Z staff, there are 12 people aged 65 or older in the EU.
Diversity in the workplace can increase ROI, lead to more innovative ideas, and foster a more productive work environment. In fact, companies that place emphasis on diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above the industry median.
The OECD provides some interesting statistical overviews. The figure indicates a significant difference in the distribution of apprenticeships across age groups in different countries.
Source: Source: National statistics and Muehlemann, S. (forthcoming), ‘The Economics of Apprenticeships for Adults’, OECD Publishing; Note: Adults refer 25+ except Austria (21+) and Germany (24+). Included in an OECD presentation during the European Vocational Skills Week 2019 in Helsinki.
Good for business
The value of apprenticeships goes beyond filling the skills gap. Expanding and having a balance of experienced hires, college graduates and apprenticeships makes organisations more diverse, and in tune to what is happening demographically.
According to the UK’s National Apprenticeship Service, 86% of employers said apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation and 78% reported improved productivity.
Around 97% of employers surveyed had experienced at least one benefit from employing an apprentice. Their survey also revealed that employers reported the following benefits:
- 86% stated apprentices had helped to develop skills for their organisation
- 76% stated apprentices had improved productivity
- 74% stated apprentices had improved their product or service quality
- 72% stated apprentices had improved staff morale
- 67% stated that employing apprentices had improved retention of staff
- 66% stated in had improved their company image in the sector
- 63% stated apprentices had brought new ideas to the organisation
For more information on this report, please click here.
In July 2020, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a “brand new bonus” for employers to hire apprentices over the next six months.
From August 2020 to January 2021, any firm that hires a new young apprentice aged 16 to 24 will receive £2,000, while those that hire new apprentices aged 25 and over will be paid £1,500.
Announcing the incentives during his summer statement, Sunak told the House of Commons: “We know apprenticeships work. Ninety one per cent stay in work or go on to further training. For the next six months we are going to pay employers to create new apprenticeships.
“We will pay businesses to hire young apprentices with a new payment of £2,000 per apprentice. And we will introduce a brand new bonus for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over with a payment of £1,500.”
But for apprenticeships to succeed, technology providers need to demonstrate the benefits for people actually going into an IT role. Collectively we have to work on STEM projects, encourage more women into the industry, change the landscape and the language to make it an attractive place for a diverse set of candidates and employees to come and work.
IT is a fast-paced, exciting industry to work in, and at Westcon we believe we’re creating a really diverse, inclusive and attractive workplace environment, but there’s always more that can be done. We’re on the right path.
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