IT Works up to Apprentice Week

IT chiefs have been urged to provide apprenticeships for young people to ensure that businesses have the skills they need.

Yesterday, prime minster David Cameron extolled the virtues of apprenticeships as part of the government-backed National Apprenticeship Week. They offer a "fantastic opportunity for people to gain the skills they need for the jobs of the future", he said.

But historically, apprenticeships have not been widely used in IT, so firms will need to consider what is needed to establish IT apprenticeship, said David Clarke, chief executive of the chartered institute for IT, the BCS.

"For certain roles, an apprenticeship is ideal," said Clarke. "Because the training is done by the business, it ensures the apprentice is learning skills that there is a real demand for."

Nevertheless, IT apprenticeships represent a change in dealing with people coming in to the profession, so firms need to evaluate which roles within the IT function are best suited to on-the-job training.

"Within the technician area, where you are talking about the practical management of IT systems, apprenticeships are ideal," added Clarke.

One example of this type of apprenticeship is the programme for budding software and web developers launched in late 2010, by e-skills UK, the IT sector training council. It is working with companies including Atos Origin, Atlas Computer Systems and Network Resource Group.

And IT apprenticeships could become an alternative to university courses.

"Our ultimate goal remains to see apprentices achieve equivalent esteem and status with university graduates, so that a place on an apprenticeship scheme is as valued as one at a university," said skills minister John Hayes.

The BCS is also currently devising a framework to include apprenticeships in its process for awarding chartered qualification. There should be a clear path for those that have completed an apprenticeship to follow in order to gain chartered status, said Clarke.

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