Can apprenticeships solve the IT skills shortage?
There has been a serious shortage of suitable skilled IT professionals for some time and it is only likely to get worse as fewer people come from the EU to work in the UK because of uncertainty about their status after Brexit.
Surveys have found that 50% of respondents see the skills shortage as a serious problem, and 25% said recruitment was a major challenge.
Certainly, there is evidence that schools need to do more to encourage students and improve their IT skills. This is something businesses can help with by getting involved in in-school workshops and activities and by publicising the range of their activities in the workplace that need IT skills.
The apprenticeship levy imposed by the Government on larger businesses was supposed to generate money to increase the number of apprenticeships but the results have so far been disappointing in terms of the numbers of apprenticeships that have been created since it was introduced last year.
However, many smaller businesses do not realise that they can get financial help to take on apprentices themselves.
If your business is below the level where it has to pay the apprenticeship levy, you pay just 10% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice aged 19-plus.
If your business qualifies it needs to agree a payment schedule with the training organisation and pay it directly, while the Government pays the remaining 90%. For apprentices aged 16-18 the Government will pay the full 100%.
However, your business also must show that any apprenticeship scheme involves the apprentice working with experienced staff, learns job-specific skills and carries out formal study, such as at a college or other training centre, during their working week.
If you are considering setting up an apprenticeship scheme, you will need to find an organisation that offers training for the type of scheme you are considering.
Given the likelihood that there will continue to be a shortage of qualified IT professionals for some time it is worth small businesses considering taking on apprentices.
There is a lot of information about both setting up and funding an apprenticeship here