Capgemini has almost 300 apprentices in its offices nationwide, over 90% of whom are on a degree apprenticeship. Ruth South, head of graduate and apprentice programmes and future leaders programme lead explains how apprenticeships are helping the company stay ahead in a highly competitive market.
As a leading global consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, Capgemini is known for its innovative and client-centric approach to business.
The result of working within a fast developing industry has meant that, since 2011, Capgemini has looked to apprenticeships to plug key digital skills gaps, better service client needs, and as an opportunity to lead on establishing a new pipeline of talent through trailblazing one of the first degree apprenticeship programmes in the country.
Keeping pace with change
Apprenticeships have been part of Capgemini for over a decade, previously being offered in small numbers at advanced and higher level. Since 2011, however, apprenticeships have taken an increasingly substantial role within the business, when Capgemini took the decision to work with Aston University to develop a Technology Degree Apprenticeship. This partnership enables apprentices to achieve a BSc in Digital and Technical Solutions, alongside gaining real-life work experience at Capgemini over four and a half years.
Taking the decision to pioneer the development of a degree apprenticeship was, for Capgemini, a direct response to the growing digital skills gap – a challenge which the tech industry more widely is struggling to address. Ruth South, Head of Graduate and Apprentice Programmes and Future Leaders Programme Lead, explains: “As a business, we’re very client-focused and we need to ensure that we were keeping pace with our clients needs for skills and innovation. As a result of the speed of change in the technology industry, we knew we had to take action to address the digital skills gap.” She continues: “We needed to find a way to grow our own talent and ensure we could keep pace with the technology being developed and ultimately service our clients’ needs. The combination of gaining high level skills and full exposure to the industry proposed by degree apprenticeships seemed like the obvious solution.”
Since 2011, apprenticeships at Capgemini have grown significantly, and the company is approaching the milestone of 500 apprentices completing programme nationwide. Its first cohort of degree apprentices started in 2013, with just 12 on the Technology Degree Programme. Capgemini now also run a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, alongside higher apprenticeships in Cyber Security, Software Development, Finance and Web and Telecoms, amongst others.
Building a partnership
Being the first of its kind to develop a degree apprenticeship in partnership with a university, without any guidance or template to follow, presented Capgemini with a series of challenges.
Firstly, as a joint venture, both parties needed to understand one another’s objectives and establish clear deliverables on what the final programme would look like. Ruth explains: “From the outset it was essential that both Capgemini and Aston had senior buy-in, who could invest time and effort into developing a programme that would work with our business as well as uphold the high educational standards of the university.” She continues: “Some of our requirements were above and beyond what Aston could provide and vice versa, therefore it was essential that we remained open and honest with one another throughout the development process.”
One example of this was the subject content for the final module of the degree which Aston stated should be related to client work. Due to data protection and client confidentiality this was a challenge for Capgemini and following negotiation it was decided that the project could relate to a Capgemini challenge/requirement where there were no data sensitivities, rather than relating to the client. This enabled apprentices to come up with creative projects that would make a difference to Capgemini whilst also delivering against the required elements for their apprenticeship.
Even now, both Capgemini and Aston conduct monthly service delivery reviews to allow both to air any concerns and ensure the programme is still working effectively for both parties. For Capgemini, the outcome of this hard work is reflected in the successes achieved by its degree apprentices on the programme. Of its first cohort of degree apprentices, 100% gained a 2:2 or above and 64% achieved a 1st - more than double the Aston on-campus average. Additionally, with a 90% retention rate of its apprentices, apprenticeships are proving to be a sound investment for the company.
Going forward, one key area in which Capgemini is hoping its apprenticeship programme can help them improve upon is the diversity of its workforce. Ruth explains: “We continue to face challenges around diversity, particularly around gender, both at Capgemini and across the tech industry as a whole. We’re really keen to address this and have a series of targets in place to encourage more women into tech, something which our apprenticeships are helping us do.”
For 2017, Capgemini set a target of 40% of its graduate and apprentice hires to be women, which it successfully reached. As a result, for 2018, Capgemini raised the bar to 50% and the organisation is hopeful that this 50/50 split can be achieved.
Having helped the business develop more of the tech skills it needs, apprenticeships will remain a key pipeline of talent, as Capgemini looks to expand its apprenticeship offering to more parts of the company.
Ruth concludes: “We’ve worked really hard to build our apprenticeship programme to the success it is today. Employers need to be aware that one size does not fit all and investing time and effort into ensuring apprenticeships work for you is an investment well spent. We’re looking to grow the leaders and technologists of the future and with apprenticeships we feel confident in achieving this.”