As a solution to the UK skills gap, especially in key areas such as digital technology, apprenticeships have come into their own, allowing companies that recruit apprentices to develop the talent they need both now and in the future.
Capgemini, a global leader in the provision of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, is one organisation that has reaped the benefits of investment in apprentices.
The company launched its Higher and Advanced Apprenticeships in 2011 and recently introduced a Degree Apprenticeship – enabling apprentices to earn a degree and a salary while building up valuable industry experience – to gain a huge advantage in the talent stakes.
Apprentice programme manager Clare Connor says: “We were very successful at developing apprentice talent via our Higher and Advanced Apprenticeships, and the Degree Apprenticeship helps us to retain that talent.”
Almost nine out of every ten apprenticeship employers hoping to achieve business benefits tell us that apprenticeships deliver
Initially, the company had looked at providing a sponsored degree programme for apprentices who completed a Level 4 qualification, and approached Aston University to develop a bespoke degree programme for Capgemini. The resulting BSC in digital and technology solutions formed the basis of the Degree Apprenticeship, and today is available as an open programme at universities across the UK.
Around 100 apprentices are recruited every year and while they need some academic qualifications in maths and sciences, the key to securing a Capgemini apprenticeship lies in cultural fit.
“We use a strengths-based approach to recruitment,” says Ms Connor. “Apprentices need to be able to study for a degree, but it is more about whether they have the skills and behaviours for a good cultural fit, rather than the right academic background.”
And they have had some remarkable successes. Amy Grange joined Capgemini’s Higher Apprenticeship programme in 2012 and is now in the final year of her Degree Apprenticeship. As a sixth former she had considered a psychology degree, but knew that deep down her real passion was technology.
She says: “I’d never understood what careers were available in IT, and nobody ever spoke about them. The focus was purely on further education routes. Alternatives like apprenticeships were never discussed.”
While conducting her own research, she discovered the Capgemini apprenticeship programme, and the opportunity to study for a degree, whilst still working full-time, earning a wage, and gaining experience in a sector she’d always been interested in.
Ms Grange expects to graduate from her degree apprenticeship programme in September next year. She will be 23, only a couple of years behind her year group peers who chose university, but with the advantage of five years’ industry experience, which has included working closely with Capgemini clients, and no student debt.
In terms of career choice there are roles in software engineering and development, and software testing. The company is also recruiting apprentices into the project management arena to fulfil a demand for high-quality project managers, project analysts and service delivery analysts, via a non-technical route and a BSc in leading and management.
For Capgemini the benefits of apprenticeships are clear. Ms Connor says: “Our apprentices come from a wide range of backgrounds, which is great for diversity within our organisation, and we get to nurture and grow our own graduate talent. They know the technology, and they are comfortable with change and highly skilled in their work. Some have been here two or three years and are performing at a very high level. They are the future leaders that every organisation wants on board.
“They are also extremely loyal to our brand. They can see the investment that has been made in their future, and they are fully engaged and committed to achieving their own success and that of the organisation.”
Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, says: “Apprenticeships make commercial sense for employers. They help businesses to improve the quality of their product or service, they tackle skills shortages, and they boost productivity by enabling businesses to grow their skills base. The average apprenticeship completer increases business productivity by £214 per week. Now is the time for more businesses to follow the lead of some of the country’s top employers and reap the benefits that apprenticeships can bring.”
Call 08000 150 600 or search ‘apprenticeships’ or ‘traineeships’ on gov.uk for more information.