UK first for North East as Apprentice Hub aims to narrow IT skills gap

The UK’s first IT apprentice hub, aimed at closing the well-documented skills gap in the sector, is to launch in the North East.

Dynamo, the region’s IT network, has partnered with Baltic Training Services for the initiative, which offers a 15-week Rising Stars programme preparing young adults for roles in IT through an intensive skills training course with technical content.

Everyone who completes the course will be given the opportunity to progress to a paid full-time 12 month Level 3 apprenticeship with an IT employer.

The approach, designed to bridge the gap between education and industry, has never before been tried in the UK and the first hub is scheduled to open at Sunderland Software City next month, with the second launching in Newcastle in April.

The project is entirely Government funded, with no cost for students, and, if successful, could be rolled out across the country.

Bob Paton, vice chairman of Dynamo and managing director of Accenture in Newcastle, which will provide laptops for the project, said: “We have an ever growing and successful IT sector in the North East. However, to grow it further we need to increase the pool of young people in the region who have the skills necessary to join the industry.
“That is why Dynamo has put skills development at the top of our agenda. A major element of our skills strategy is to increase the take on of apprentices, particularly for SMEs.

“Setting up this apprentice hub is unique in IT and will significantly help more young people into our industry.”

In the North East, more than 32,000 people are currently employed in IT, a sector for which it is becoming increasingly renowned.

However, in the line with the rest of the UK, there is an insufficient number of young people – particularly women – gaining the right skills to enter the industry.

As a result, it is estimated that there are around 2,000 vacancies that can not be filled at present.

The concept behind the hubs is that employers can recruit from a pool of driven individuals who have already demonstrated commitment and are appropriately qualified.

For the young people themselves, they will provide the opportunity to start IT careers with some of the region’s leading businesses.

Louise Ball, operations director at Baltic Training Services, a Newton Aycliffe-based IT training provider, said: “The IT sector is a major employer in the region and, as its fastest growing sector, this will only become more so.

“It is very important, therefore, that we support it by attracting the brightest and best young talent in sufficient numbers.”

The hubs are being funded through an arrangement between Baltic Training Services and Darlington College, with recruits able to receive subsidies towards travel, and possibly other funds to support their learning.

The Sunderland hub is also being supported by Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Software City.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “This Sunderland-based training hub is about upskilling more of our young people into the growing IT sector by updating their skills and knowledge.

“Training programmes, such as this hub, are very much part of this city council’s commitment to investing in job creation as part of our economic masterplan.”

Amy Porter, skills manager for Sunderland Software City, said: “Addressing the skills gap and making sure young people are aware of the opportunities within the IT sector in our region is fundamental to the continued growth and success of the industry.”

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