Former business secretary praises QA Apprenticeships

Sir Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2010 to 2015, has publically endorsed the work of QA Apprenticeships at a recent event on technology apprenticeships.

QA Apprenticeships has been lauded for the excellent work they are doing to bridge the UK digital skills gap, at a London event hosted by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. The event on 8th February 2017 looked to uncover the value of technology apprenticeships, highlight the apprenticeship levy, and demonstrate the importance of gender diversity within technology roles, to the UK's largest employers.

The event highlighted the career journey of 22-year-old Satveer Kaur-Singh, who chose to take an IT apprenticeship with QA instead of attending a high-ranking university and now works as an analyst at AXA Insurance. Satveer stood up in front of key industry figureheads to share her success story and champion the value that women can bring to tech-based roles.

Former business secretary Sir Vince Cable presented at the event:

"Great event on digital skills from the BCS, especially seeing how a young woman technology apprentice, QA's Satveer Kaur-Singh, has added considerable value to her employer, and is thriving in a technology position. I completely support those who are proactively promoting technology apprenticeships to diverse audiences. Post Brexit Britain faces a chronic digital skill shortage. Gender diversity and inclusion should be high priority to the ongoing strategy to recruit apprentices to enable the UK to bridge the skills gap effectively."

Satveer was a high achiever in her academic life, having obtained exceptional A Level results, and could have chosen a high-ranking university to continue her studies. Instead, she decided to take an IT apprenticeship with QA, because she saw the value of learning and earning at the same time, without incurring student debt.

Satveer aims to show the value that a woman can bring to a tech-based role, and shared her views on how to attract more women into IT:

"In order to attract more females to the IT industry we need to start at the very beginning of the educational system with schools and colleges. This early promotion will assist with challenging the stereotype that most successful people in IT are 'Men in their 50s'. When we talk about an IT workforce most people have the image of a man in a suit and this association needs to change in order to reflect the current IT workforce and in turn make the industry more appealing to women."

Satveer also hopes to inspire the next generation of young women, showing the positive impact that an IT apprenticeship has had on her life. She went on to address the value of women to the tech sector:

"Equality and diversity are the highest it's ever been in years and there has been a noticeable change in the focus of the needs of the customer and a more collaborative working environment. This has led to an increase in relationship building and inter-personal skills required rather than purely technical. Therefore these creative soft skills and also the variety of roles available within IT need to be clearly publicised so that we can change the perception of IT roles. The information security profession can also often lend itself to both flexible hours and career paths, and more companies can take advantage of that, and publicise it which may appeal to more women."

A technology apprenticeship is a route that young people can take to start a career within the tech sector, or in a tech role. They get government funded training, and a job with a salary, at a credible company. Now, with the introduction of 'degree apprenticeships' in 2015, young people can receive Higher Education, as part of an apprenticeship, to get a degree without the debt. Recent studies show that IT based apprenticeships can offer the highest salaries (*research available upon request), with salaries one year after completing an apprenticeship – up to £25,000 per year, and above.

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, in April 2017, will help to bridge organisations 'digital skills gaps', where organisations with payroll over £3M will pay a percentage of their pay bill to funding apprenticeships within their organisations. Digital apprenticeships can substantially help UK organisations with the growing demand for tech and digital professionals – whilst helping young people to enter the job market, with the right experience and skills. Given the scope of the 'digital skills gap', cited within a recent government report, and many other independent data sources, the demand for tech based apprentices is forecast to increase significantly over the next 5 years.

Although there is a gender imbalance industry-wide in technology-based apprenticeships, QA's figures show that they are ahead of the curve with 6% more females in Software Development apprenticeships (Level 4), than the industry standard. This is attributed to their focussed marketing campaigns.

To fulfil their clients' needs, in terms of the right skills that both women and men can bring, recruiting more women into tech apprenticeships has been crucial for QA. QA have recently deployed successful marketing campaigns to both, men and women, on Facebook, to recruit apprentices. Their female-focussed campaigns, showcase some of the large brands offering tech-based apprenticeships, as well as reasons to opt for an apprenticeship – such as financial independence, and lifestyle benefits.

Ben Pike, Head of QA Apprenticeships, said:

"We have seen a progressive rise in women in IT practitioner and specialist programmes within the last few years and are pleased that we are above the industry average; 16% for Software Development compared to 10% industry average. But, we still have a lot of work to do. We aim to bring to the fore – lots of inspiring stories of women in technology roles, who have completed an apprenticeship, to uncover the breadth of what the industry has to offer. It is such an exciting career choice, as you will see today from the presentation from Satveer."

Sarah Burnett, Chair of BCSWomen, said:

"Whilst there is a rise of women in professional roles, we have yet to see a significant impact through the work done by the numerous organisations who are trying to make a difference. It is clear that there are still cultural issues to be addressed if we are to attract and retain greater numbers of women in technology roles. Females accounted for 19% of IT apprenticeships ('Practitioner' and 'User') started in 2015 but just 10% of apprenticeships were IT practitioner/specialist focussed. Employers and educators must continue to strive to attract girls, with a fresh mind-set and IT should become much more relevant to the next generation of workers, including women. This can be achieved not just by showing them the challenging and well paid roles that is on offer, but also the opportunities to solve problems, improve lives and make the world a better place through technology."

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