Recent research has pointed to a growing skills crisis throughout the UK’s digital industries; there simply are not enough people with the right skills. Craig Hurring, CEO of Tech Partnership (an employer-led organisation that oversees the skills in the digital sector) reported that the UK needs 138,000 new entrants each year to fill all the specialist digital roles in the UK.
Traditionally, tech firms often recruit from a pool of Computer Science graduates, but according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the UK had only 16,440 Computer Science graduates last year, leaving a shortfall of over 120,000 per annum. As a result, it’s not surprising that 52% of UK tech companies are now reporting hard-to-fill vacancies.
Since only 17% of digital specialist roles are occupied by women, many tech companies who need new young talent are exploring how to double the pool of potential entrants by attracting both women and men to their companies, thus bringing better workforce diversity and improving productivity. One of the key issues is that only 16% of Computer Science graduates are young women.
In order to close the gender gap and get more talent in to the UK Tech industry, the most obvious solution is to try to persuade more young people, particularly young women to take up a Computer Science degrees. In fact, many forward thinking IT companies are involved in initiatives such as Girls only IT clubs and the ‘People Like Me’ WISE Campaign that use gender specific words and strong role models to encourage girls to consider a future in IT. At this stage, it is all too early to measure the impact, since they are aimed at 14-16 year olds who still have a few years in education before choosing their degree.
Not only is it very difficult for companies involved in these initiatives to quantify a return on their efforts, but the impact can only be measured in at least 3 to 5 years’ time, when young women decide (or don’t decide) to take up a Computer Science degree. There are lots of reasons why young women are disinclined to graduate to Computer Science since these courses have the biggest gap between men and women of all subjects at degree level. As a result, young women are worried about being isolated, and therefore choose other subjects, so the gender gap remains.
Tech companies looking to increase women in to their workforce in 2018 and future years can only either recruit from the very small pool of Computer Science graduates, that may or may not grow in the coming years, or… they can think differently.
Apprenticeship Standards that have been designed by groups of employers under the banner of Tech Partnership, offer a fast track solution for companies wishing to improve workforce gender equality and increase the number of entrants and scope of talent.
ELATT have seen, year on year, that Digital Apprenticeships can be very attractive to female school leavers in a way that a Computer Science degree is not. Companies that offer Apprenticeships can talk directly to young women and men in words that are specific to both sexes, describing real career opportunities that young people can understand and relate to.
By recruiting non-graduates, leap frogging traditional pathways to the industry, and offering training that is specific to their needs, companies can promote themselves to a much larger pool of young women (as well as young men) and by doing so, can impact the numbers of women within their workforce immediately.
They can also benefit from everything that the Apprenticeship Scheme has to offer, such as keen young people within the company who are learning on the job (right up to Post Graduate level) and whose external training is tailored and fits exactly with the company’s needs.
At ELATT, we believe that Digital Apprenticeships are a transformative opportunity for both individuals and for the companies that take them on, and we are not alone in thinking this. Plummeting Apprenticeship numbers following the levy introduction has been reported on a lot in the press, yet not surprisingly, Digital Apprenticeships are bucking the trend. This year, they constitute 14% of all Apprenticeships across England, compared to just 3% the year before.
If you’d like to find out more about Digital Apprenticeships that are currently available, take a look at our Digital Apprenticeships Programme on offer please contact us at ELATT today.