25 Mar 2024
by Anita Ibrahim

The Transformative Impact of Apprenticeships on improving Social Mobility for the Tech Workforce

Technology is in a constant state of evolution, yet it continues to face a significant challenge: the widening skills gap. There is an estimated 100,000 new opportunities emerging in the UK every month, including jobs that didn't exist five years ago in areas such as data and AI, so there is both huge potential and an ever-increasing gap between skills required and talent available.  

Apprenticeships could revolutionise the way individuals from different backgrounds enter the tech space. That they focus on developing the technical skills that are in high demand but also have successful completion dependent on honing professional behaviours and workplace skills is a truly positive direction of travel. The hands-on experience gained from being in employment from the start quite rightly assumes that people are adaptable and bring transferable life experience into their roles with them, and this diversity of thought will be invaluable to UK’s tech workforce. 

By empowering people and celebrating the individuality they bring to the table, whilst teaching them the world’s most sought-after tech skills along the way, apprenticeships open doors to a more diverse future for the industry and the enablement of upward social mobility. 

Apprenticeships have seen a massive transformation in the last 5 years.  No longer just an early career option, they are increasingly seeing more people with 10+ years work experience enrolling onto programmes to support career advancement, career changes and professionalisation of experience. Programmes for the everyday user through to architect level are designed in Cloud computing, Data analysis, DevOps and Cybersecurity and are becoming an integral part of talent succession and retention in a number of industries. The programmes themselves, created by tech giants, in collaboration with industry and academia, go through rigorous design and approval processes, with the firm commitment that these programmes will also be used in-house. 

This is why apprenticeships should, by default, serve as catalysts for social mobility, providing individuals with a transformative pathway into the tech industry. By equipping people with high-demand skills, promoting diversity, and enabling long-term career growth, apprenticeships empower people from all backgrounds to pursue fulfilling careers and shape the future of technology. 

A diverse workforce promotes innovation, improves problem-solving abilities, and contributes to a more inclusive and equitable society. However, UK’s tech workforce needs to faster reflect this diversity, particularly in terms of gender and racial equality. 

Although Apprenticeship programmes provide an effective solution to this issue, it’s this very issue that presents a perpetual cycle of entry barriers that continue to persist, hindering access for disadvantaged individuals. According to a study by the Social Mobility Commission, only 12% of apprenticeships in England are undertaken by people from disadvantaged backgrounds, indicating a significant and disappointing disparity in opportunities or even the communication of such opportunities into diverse communities. 

To overcome the challenges hindering social mobility in apprenticeships, the implementation of more targeted strategies to promote inclusivity and accessibility is key. One effective approach is to establish partnerships with apprenticeship providers and community organisations to reach a diverse pool of candidates. According to research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, collaborative efforts between employers and educators increases apprenticeship uptake among underrepresented groups. 

Additionally, companies can offer structured networking and mentorship opportunities to support apprentices from diverse backgrounds, addressing the lack of prior qualifications or experience. Providing financial assistance or grants can mitigate the financial barriers that deter disadvantaged individuals from participating in apprenticeships. 

Additionally, removing unnecessary entry requirements can level the playing field for applicants. By focusing on potential and drive rather than grades and degrees, apprenticeships provide a pathway for individuals from all walks of life to access rewarding careers in tech and long-term economic empowerment.  

As we reflect on the challenges facing social mobility in the tech workforce, let us consider the changes we can implement within our own companies to foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all who seek them. 

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Anita Ibrahim

Anita Ibrahim

Head of Partnerships and Social Mobility, QA 

Tech UK Skills and Diversity Council Member  

UCAS Policy Group England Member 

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