group of young employees

Article by Charlotte Goodwill, CEO of the ITP.

There are currently 26 apprenticeship standards in IT and tech, covering everything from network engineering to cyber security.

Apprenticeships can provide an ideal first step on the career ladder in tech; yet we are still struggling to attract more women to these roles.

The statistics make stark reading. Only 26% of the tech workforce are women, and what’s more, 56% of women don’t return to their jobs in IT after having children. How can we encourage more women to take up these opportunities?

Back to school

It’s clear that the issue begins in the classroom. According to the WISE campaign, only 8% of women progress to a Level 4+ STEM qualification and only 24% of women then progress to the STEM workforce. However, employers are now recognising that apprenticeships can bridge this gap between skills and diversity. Not only that, but they can build a talent pipeline for the future.

Ritika Mital, a 2021 ITP Award winner, agrees: “I believe encouraging school students to dream about a career in STEM roles – engineering, technology, and computer science is the key to increasing the percentage of women in this industry. At present young girls don’t see themselves working in unconventional roles and hence do not even try to venture into STEM roles. Once the idea of a career in the STEM industry is implanted in the minds of young girls from their school days, it will be possible for them to envisage and build their own careers in this unconventional industry.”

The business benefits of apprenticeships

With funding available in the UK to take on apprentices, they are an appealing option for employers. British businesses are only required to pay 5% towards the cost of training and assessing apprentices, with the government paying the rest. They are increasingly becoming more appealing to job seekers too, having shaken off their traditional stigma – combined with rising cost of living and university fees soaring.

Apprenticeships, however, are not limited just to young people starting their careers. They can be used for retraining or upskilling existing staff too. According to the National Apprenticeship Service:

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships have helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
  • 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service

Apprenticeships and career progression

Apprenticeships can be a great springboard for a career change. Take Ritika Mital as a prime example. With a background in HR, she relocated from India to the UK in 2020 and took up an apprenticeship in telecoms. During that time, she has progressed and is now holding a senior role in the business.

Upskilling existing staff

Funding is also available for existing staff who want to take on an apprenticeship. The winner of the ITP SME Apprentice of the Year Award 2021 is another great example. Jacob Whitby was already employed but wanted to expand his knowledge and skillset. After an assessment with his manager an appropriate apprenticeship was found, and he is now learning to become a cyber security specialist.

Attracting a diverse workforce

Despite this, it’s still increasingly difficult to attract a diverse workforce into IT and tech apprenticeships. In the past year we’ve hired 60 female apprentices on behalf of one of our partners by:

  • Approaching schools and colleges to find talent, rather than waiting for them to find us
  • Re-examining job specs and removing some of the pre-requisites for the roles. Placing a higher value on attitude and personality rather than previous experience (skills can be taught)
  • De-coding job adverts and descriptions to make the language gender-neutral so as not to deter female applicants
  • Ensuring the recruitment process is inclusive and accessible to all – catering for neuro-diverse candidates or those with additional requirements
  • Showcasing and raising the profile of role models within the business to inspire others
  • Establishing mentoring programmes to support more junior team members and create a safe, inclusive environment

It’s clear that there is still much work to be done, but we truly believe that apprenticeships are the key to plugging the tech skills gap in the UK.

About the author

Charlotte-GoodwillCharlotte Goodwill is CEO of the ITP. Joining the organisation in 2017, Charlotte previously held the role of Head of Apprenticeships where she was responsible for addressing the UK technical skills gap within the telecoms and digital industries. With a commercial background, Charlotte joined the ITP to grow the Level 3 & 4 Digital Apprenticeship standards across businesses, and to encourage companies to grow their IT, technical and engineering teams through apprenticeships. As a result of her hard work the ITP’s apprenticeship scheme has grown by over 75%. Charlotte’s focus as CEO is on diversifying the digital workforce, advocating career development through apprenticeships and membership and serving as a voice for the industry.  Despite working full time and raising a young family, last year she graduated from the Open University after six years of studying with a BSc first class honours degree in psychology and counselling.