Technology is forcing our industries to evolve at a rapid pace; from retail to finance and manufacturing, 44% of UK business leaders admit their businesses will not exist in their current form in five years. While technology has allowed us to explore new avenues of growth and carried businesses through journeys of transformation they could have never anticipated, we’re all too aware of the gap in skilled individuals that are available to cater to these new needs.
Aside from the concern of what a skills gap in the UK means for our own economic prospects, it begs concern for the next generation of school leavers who are at risk of being ill equipped for the industries they’ll soon find themselves competing to enter. With students of this generation growing up as digital natives, there’s an incredible opportunity for industries to tap into new ways of thinking, working and innovating that at once would equip schools leavers for the digital future they’ll soon be leading.
Last month we saw Theresa May announce her new proactive industrial strategy in which she signalled her willingness to work in partnership with the private sector to build digital skills. In order to really tackle the skills gap, there needs to be a similar commitment from the industries that suffer from a lack of relevant skills. Creating apprenticeship schemes is a brilliant way to provide a like for like benefit to the next generation of schools leavers, and the benefits are endless.
Apprenticeship schemes come well rewarded
Apprenticeships provide companies with enthusiastic candidates who in turn gain vital technical skills and commercial awareness that prepare them for successful careers in the STEM sector. Technology companies in particular benefit from the input of young people, as the new ideas and knowledge that they bring as digital natives are vital for continuing innovation. What’s more, apprenticeships are a crucial way to encourage young women to enter careers in the technology sector, and address the ongoing gender imbalance that we face.
At Fujitsu, we have benefitted from a large and long-standing apprenticeship scheme for over 20 years. On average, 70 young people join each year with over a 90% completion rate. Our partnership with the University of Winchester has also been extremely beneficial; providing exceptional degree-level candidates who have the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the business. We have found some of our best talent through apprenticeships, and former apprentices now hold senior positions in the company. I would urge every company to consider establishing an apprenticeship scheme, as the benefits for both the organisation and the economy more broadly are exceptional.
We’ve seen some incredible personal growth stories through our apprenticeship programmes that show us that outside of the business need for digital skills, we can have real impact on people’s lives.
Take Callum Kershaw, for example. Callum is 19 years of age and originates from a small Valleys town in South Wales called Brynmawr. It’s renowned for being a mining and steelwork town, meaning there are very few job opportunities for people Callum’s age. However, in September 2015 he joined Fujitsu as a sponsored degree apprentice within the products business as a way to gain work experience alongside his degree. Our apprentices tend to rotate around the business every to 12 months, and after nine months Calum decided to specialise within the governance team. What this experience has given him is the opportunity to gain real world experience that helps puts his degree in the context of the industry he hopes to enter into after University.
We will give more opportunities like this to students through our partnership with the University of Winchester, which has a strong track record in delivering employer-led programmes. With them we’ve been able to give students the benefits of studying while working in a professional environment, delivering the best of both worlds.
Collaboration is key, and we firmly believe it’s our duty to ensure we’re fostering a generation of workers that are equipped with a distinctive and relevant education that will enable them to navigate the digital future we’ve created for them. This National Apprenticeship Week, we would encourage businesses throughout the tech sector – and beyond – to consider what apprenticeships can do for them.