Closing the Tech Talent Gap through Apprenticeships

The tech industry is at a crossroads in an era when the rapid pace of technological innovation outstrips the availability of skilled professionals. The IT skills gap stifles innovation and hinders social mobility across the United Kingdom. Forbes and Oxford Learning report that 93% of businesses face an IT skills gap, with 20% of the UK workforce anticipated to be underskilled by 2030. This situation demands a robust response from CTOs, CIOs, and all stakeholders in the tech ecosystem.

Developing tech skills – a success story

James Atherton, Development Manager at Chubb Fire and Security (FS), is at the forefront of addressing this challenge through practical solutions like tech apprenticeships. "The demand for technical skills is climbing relentlessly, and traditional paths to acquiring these skills are increasingly insufficient," Atherton observes of his apprentice Farhan Munshi, illustrating the potential of alternative pathways to bridge the IT skills gap and enhance social mobility.

"Our apprentice, Farhan, returned from the Corndel bootcamp with a deep understanding of the technical dialogue that pervades our work environment," Atherton shares. "It was immediately clear that we needed to elevate our expectations and challenge him with complex projects." Farhan's story is a testament to the efficacy of apprenticeships in swiftly and effectively equipping individuals with the requisite skills for the tech industry.

The tech skills gap is an opportunity for social mobility

The significance of apprenticeships extends beyond filling immediate skill shortages; they are also a vehicle for social mobility. In a sector where only 9% of employees come from lower socio-economic backgrounds—substantially lower than in finance (29%) and law (23%), and less than a quarter of the overall UK workforce (39%), apprenticeships offer a ladder to those who might otherwise be excluded from the tech industry due to traditional educational barriers. "Not everyone has to follow the same path to career success," Atherton asserts, spotlighting the inclusive potential of apprenticeship programmes.

Corndel's research, involving 300 senior decision-makers in UK businesses, highlights a collective recognition of workplace training's role as a driver of social mobility. Despite the recognised importance of social mobility to business leaders, with nine in ten considering it a critical aspect of their company's Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) strategy, only 62% of organisations actively measure it, and 43% cite difficulties in measurement. At the same time, 85% of business leaders acknowledge the effectiveness of apprenticeships in addressing social mobility challenges, while only two-thirds plan to leverage them within the following year. This gap between belief and action signifies a missed opportunity in the collective effort to bridge the skills gap and enhance social mobility.

Apprenticeships should be a key strategy for CTO's wanting to build tech talent

For Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) facing the daunting task of developing tech talent amidst a significant IT skills gap, apprenticeships offer a vital solution. The challenge, as highlighted by Forbes, stems from rapid technological advancements (42%), a shortage of training opportunities (41%), and a lack of relevant educational programmes (37%). These factors contribute to only 13% of organisations being able to successfully attract and retain the tech talent they need most, according to a Harvard Business Review survey of 230 organisations.

Apprenticeships offer CTOs a direct avenue to cultivate essential tech skills within their teams. This approach is uniquely beneficial, providing hands-on experience and fostering a learning environment that keeps pace with industry advancements while addressing the broader challenge of social mobility and opening up the tech sector to a more diverse range of candidates and perspectives. By integrating apprenticeships into their talent development plans, CTOs make a future-proofing investment that bridges the current skills gap and prepares organisations for future technological shifts.

The future of UK tech skills will rely on a wide range of innovative skill pathways

The way forward for UK tech talent involves a collective commitment to innovative recruitment and retention strategies, with apprenticeships playing a pivotal role. By prioritising the development of a skilled, diverse workforce, the tech industry can drive sustainable growth, foster innovation, and contribute to a more equitable society. Atherton's advocacy and Farhan's success story serve as a blueprint for transforming the tech talent landscape, making it more inclusive and prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

This has been a guest blog by Tech Talent Charter Signatory, Corndel. To find out more about leveraging apprenticeships, visit the Diversity and Inclusion Open Playbook's chapter on Tech Apprenticeships.