BCS The Chartered Institute for IT delivered 2,000 apprenticeships during lockdown 1.0
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT is the end point assessor for 19 digital apprenticeship standards, and like all organisations, we’ve had to adapt our capabilities to ‘suit’ COVID-19’s new ways of working. We have unintentionally found ourselves almost prepared for the pandemic due to the nature of digital apprenticeships, with all assessments completed online. We delivered 2,000 apprenticeships during lockdown 1.0 (April-September 2020). Although there have been no drastic changes since National Apprenticeship Week 2020, we’ve increased our capabilities to deliver on mass. BCS’s priority throughout has been to ensure that all apprentices could be remotely invigilated to take their BCS Knowledge Module exams and continue their apprenticeship whilst working from home or on furlough.
BCS’s Head of Apprenticeships, Annette Allmark said:
“The collaboration, support and determination of employers, providers, and apprentices to continue learning and assessment throughout the pandemic is something BCS is very proud to be a part of.”
Everyone involved has pulled together to make it a successful process. As we emerge from the lingering pandemic, there are key lessons to be learned in terms of maximising digital learning and assessment. The focus for NAW 2021 really highlights this: entitled Build the Future - it determines how the economy comes together to focus on how employers can train, retain, and achieve through apprenticeships.
Post Covid-19, digital skills will be essential for many businesses’ survival – especially SME’s. From January 1st, 2020 the Education and Skills Funding Agency provided all SME’s access to the Digital Apprentices Service. SME’s can benefit from the apprenticeship levy transfer to cover the cost of their training and development of a digital apprenticeship in line with their business needs. For example, SME’s may need to increase their data skills as organisations are collecting data but failing to understand its meaning for them and their customers. SME’s may employee a Data Technician apprentice, a role found in all sectors where data is generated or processed including finance, retail, education, health, media, manufacturing, and hospitality.
Rishi Sunak provided the nation with economic and financial updates throughout the pandemic, providing useful benefits for employers. BCS produced 'What the Plan for Jobs means for IT and Digital' following a series of webinars focused on the government’s job plans. Utilising government funding is a perfect opportunity for organisations to achieve digital competence. BCS recently hosted The Virtual Digital Festival For Skills, where the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan confirmed, “This pandemic has accelerated the need for our technical education system to create a pipeline of skilled productive workers who can support the future needs of the economy.” This is reflected in the Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper, where reforms will ensure employers are at the heart of post-16 skills, driving technical and higher technical skills and ensuring all reforms are aligned to the skills that employers need to build a successful future.
However, we still face inconsistencies, as the Lloyds Bank Consumer Index reported in 2018: 8% of people in the UK (4.3 million) were estimated to have zero basic digital skills. This can be due to limited/no access to connectivity/ data, limited/no access to devices or not understanding the benefits digital literacy can offer. This issue grows as our lifestyle becomes digitally reliant. Skills and digital poverty are interlinked, so one cannot be improved without commitment to the other. A key BCS policy focus is digital poverty and skills. We recently provided insight to government through consultations; The National Data Strategy and BEIS – How to level up economic performance across the UK. BCS also offers numerous qualifications from increasing individuals’ basic digital literacy, to our certification pathway for current IT professionals.
Let’s link it all together! Digital apprenticeships can help provide the UK workforce and pipeline with competent and ethical IT professionals, thus helping organisations improve their digital capabilities. Digital apprenticeships have the potential to increase digital skills, decrease digital poverty, increase employment, and help businesses adapt their products and services to suit our ‘new normal’.
Jenna Griffin is currently a Policy Programme Manager at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, where she works in the policy and PR team to deliver a number of projects focused around our themes, which this year are; digital skills/ digital divide, diversity and inclusion and professionalism. She has worked at BCS in this role for the last 18 months and has a degree in Business Management.