Conor Gilligan concludes his interview with Whitehat’s Euan Blair.
Reading time: 2m 30s.
I know you’re into technology, this is a growth sector for apprenticeships, and according to Linkedin the top hard skills on demand for 2019 are cloud computing and artificial intelligence. How do you see apprenticeships developing in the technology sector?
Apprenticeships are absolutely essential to ensuring employers can benefit from hard tech skills. Schools and universities simply aren’t equipped to teach people on a functional level how to become experts in emerging technical areas.
There is often a big difference between someone who has a computer science degree and someone who knows how to be a great software engineer. When so many businesses are struggling to hire good engineering talent, it’s an incredible opportunity for them to not just reach great budding developers but to build a long-term talent pipeline as their requirements grow.
This goes for things as wide ranging as machine learning, through to blockchain, through to digital marketing.
For a business looking to develop their first apprenticeship programme, what would be the top three pieces of advice you would give them?
First, have a clear objective for the programme beyond spending the apprenticeship levy (this should never be the primary goal!)
Second, ensure that ahead of any programme launch, key stakeholders in the organisation – and crucially these must include all apprentice line managers – know exactly what an apprenticeship entails and are aligned around the objective.
Third, make sure that your programme is being delivered by a provider who can do all of the things you need them to do (from attracting and identifying great talent to delivering a high-impact training programme) and can execute on them really well.
Most apprenticeship provision is poor, and employers must be demanding and have high expectations around their provision to drive up standards more widely.
Yes, I think it’s critical that the partner a business chooses is not only able to find the talent, but deliver a ground-breaking training programme. Businesses are leveraging technologies to do this to allow apprentices to share knowledge and communicate whilst on the job.
Where do you see the future of apprenticeships?
We talk about wanting to see 35% of all school leavers choose to do an apprenticeship – at the moment, it’s 6/7%, with about half overall going to university. This will only happen if apprenticeships are viewed as a genuine alternative to the very best universities and if employers believe they can use them to attract outstanding talent.
We are seeing an increasing number of great employers drop their degree requirements and broaden out where they will attract talent from and I think as apprenticeships continue to develop this will become more and more common.
The seeming ubiquity of university will be eroded as the future of work throws up a series of new challenges and it becomes increasingly obvious we can’t just educate and employ people in the same way we have over the last few decades. I think apprenticeships are ideally positioned to fill this gap, both in the UK and globally.