Securing the new collar workforce of the Future: IBM and National Apprentice Week

by Jenny Taylor, IBM UK Foundation Manager.

The UK has experienced massive growth in digital innovation, but the shortage of digital skills is threatening to topple the UK’s position as a major force in IT. The British Chamber of Commerce released a study in 2017 which highlighted that 75 percent of UK businesses reported a digital skills shortage in their employee base. With the ever increasing importance of digital technologies, the issue needs to be addressed if the UK is to remain competitive and take advantage of the growing digital economy.

On the job learning through schemes like Apprenticeships is one of the ways companies are trying to bridge the skills gap and equip the future work force with the right skills for today’s world of digital innovation.

IBM has long been an advocate of applicants without a degree on their CV as long as they have the skill set required to do the job.

Back in November 2016 IBM spoke of the increasing need for skilled employees to fill “new collar” jobs in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence and cognitive business.

These new-collar jobs will likely become more prevalent in the future as technological progress accelerates and university costs continue to rise.

This week, the UK will celebrate National Apprenticeship Week – a week-long celebration of the extremely valuable contribution apprenticeships can make to individuals, companies and society. From traditional trade apprentices, to new forms of training like Degree Apprentices, the week will highlight why having diverse forms of training available to school leavers (and those looking to reskill or re-enter the workforce) is absolutely essential to the UK’s skill gap and securing the new collar workforce of the future.

IBM’s Apprentices

IBM’s apprentice programme launched in the UK in 2010 as a core part of our effort to build the next generation of technical specialists and leaders. Since then, it has evolved apace – surpassing even our own optimistic goals of becoming a wide-ranging technical and business training scheme across all parts of the UK business. From humble beginnings, we are proud to now have one of the industry’s most sophisticated apprenticeship programmes with over 140 apprentices in our Early Professionals’ programme.

We offer a wide range of apprenticeship pathways. We are an Employer-Provider for Junior Management Consultants, Associate Project Managers and Software Testers. We also have apprentices on Software Developer and Infrastructure Technician pathways, as well as HR, Accounting, and Digital Marketing standards. We also have apprentices studying degree level apprenticeships for Digital & Technology Solutions, Cyber Security and Chartered Business Management pathways across six different universities.

It’s one of the ways we get fresh talent into the business first – and far from being a special class of newcomers, they are fully fledged members of our overall Early Professionals’ programme. This immediately makes them part of a huge community of apprentices, interns, school leavers and graduates, providing extensive networking opportunities, community activities, education sessions, and connections to the wider IBM base.

Within a month of joining as an apprentice, a new hire will already be intrinsically involved in our business – working on real clients, developing real projects, and perhaps most importantly, working alongside some of the most experienced and capable teams in UK technology.

What’s Next?

We’re looking forward to seeing the Apprenticeship and Degree Apprenticeship scheme expand and flourish – taking in talented new IBMers from a diverse range of educational, cultural and social backgrounds.

This week is so important to us because we will be working alongside the UK government, our partners in education, in the technology industry and business to open people’s eyes to the potential of apprenticeships. University is not right for everyone, neither is going straight into a job. An apprenticeship offers a viable middle path – and the success of our programme, our apprentices and those in other companies throughout the country shows that path is an extremely good option for many of today’s most talented school leavers.

We will be going out around the country with our partners and colleagues to speak about apprentices. We will be on the radio, in the press and shouting from the rooftops. This is indeed a week to celebrate – and we hope you will join us in hailing not just those already on apprentice schemes with IBM, but others who will soon join this movement.

For more information on IBM’s open opportunities for school leavers and apprentices please follow: