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Employers urged to support apprentices
Added July 04, 2012
Sunderland Software City is calling on the North East software sector to support the region’s apprentices as a way of creating the next generation of software talent.
Figures from The Data Service show that that the number of students starting an apprenticeship in Information and Communication Technology jumped from 12,570 to 19,520 in the 2010/2011 academic year, highlighting the growing support for the programme among UK employers.
Furthermore, new research by the National Skills Academy for IT shows a 90% rate of satisfaction among employers offering IT & Telecoms (IT&T) apprenticeships, all of which would recommend the programme as a way of recruiting staff.
One company that is flying the flag for digital apprentices is Sunderland-based software company The Test Factory, which currently has three apprentices on its books, and is keen to attract more.
Eve Rodgers, 17, and Connor Hall, 19, have recently been joined by Masuma Begum, 17, as Business and IT apprentices at the company, with all three choosing the apprenticeship route after finding that it offered them the experience they needed to gain an advantage in an increasingly difficult jobs market.
This was certainly the case for Eve, who originally intended to follow a traditional route to education but left St Robert’s College in Washington after six weeks as she was finding that her A-Levels were too rigid in structure.
She is now studying towards a Level 3 apprenticeship, which is provided by Sunderland ITeC and plans to move up to a Level 4, which is equivalent to A Levels, with the option of progressing to a degree equivalent Level 5.
Eve said: “For me, A-Levels were just far too structured and didn’t give me the opportunity to experience different areas of learning. The apprenticeship allows me to gain experience in the workplace, as well as get a taste of a variety of roles that will hopefully lead to a long and successful career. The job market is so difficult at the moment, but I really believe that doing an apprenticeship in such a growing industry will give me an advantage.”
Kevin Beales, managing director at The Test Factory, said: “Recruiting apprentices has been a great success for us, with Eve, Connor and Masuma already proving to be valuable assets to the business. Apprenticeships represent a great opportunity for us to develop staff from the ground up, ensuring that they are prepared for the world of work once they have completed their training. We will definitely be looking to bring on more apprentices over the coming years as the business continues to grow.”
Sunderland Software City has helped The Test Factory access sources of funding, including £435,000 of investment from the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund, which is managed by the IP Group.
Another company that has realised the potential of apprentices is Newcastle-based technology investment firm and app developer Ground Six, which recently recruited Sean Irving, 20, and Iain Holmes, 17, who are both studying an Edexcel Level 3 Diploma in IT with Newcastle College.
Ground Six, which now employs nine staff, are confident that the apprenticeship programme will help the company to develop the right mix of talent to take its product range forward.
Sarah Armstrong, director at Ground Six, said: “We chose Sean and Iain because their course work showed a lot of potential and illustrated the right mix of creativity and enterprise that we were looking for. As Ground Six is very much an ideas led company, it was important that we were able to find apprentices that were able to grow with the business.
"Hiring an apprentice means that you’re working with a blank canvas, which can sometimes make it easier to integrate them into the business than if they had went on to further education or experienced other ways of working. We would definitely look at the option of recruiting more apprentices in the future.”
Sunderland Software City is currently helping Ground Six by providing user testing and research.
David Dunn, chief executive of Sunderland Software City, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way for employers in the software sector to tap into the wealth of young talent we have here in the North East. There is an obvious link between new technologies and inspiring young minds, so it is important that employers do all they can to encourage the next generation of software talent."
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