National Apprenticeship Week is something I’m behind one hundred per cent.Not only does it remind young people that University isn’t the only route to a great career, but it’s also really important for the development of future talent; especially in the technology industry, where you arguably learn best by being in the thick of it. Being at the heart of where the innovation takes place stimulates a real buzz, which inspires a sense of passion. I had a look over the UKCES Future of Work – Jobs & Skills in 2030 study last week and what really jumped out at me was the huge part that technology and innovation have to play going forward. While the fast-paced nature of the tech and digital industries is something I personally enjoy, it does mean that the types of skills people will have to learn will be shifting all the time. You could argue that this is what we’re seeing at the moment with the well-publicised skills gap, flagged up by companies as big as Facebook, who claimed the deficit was most evident in the UK. Personally, I think this is because schools have been lagging behind when it comes to the IT curriculum. You’ve only got to look at the companies crying out for bright, skilled Linux engineers to see this. While this is disappointing, it’s not just the educational establishments who have to step up and fix it. It’s up to businesses to start investing in young people, and apprenticeships are a good way to start. That’s not to say the onus is entirely on businesses. A collaborative approach between schools, technology and digital companies, and the government seems like the right approach to keep on top of what’s new in the industry, and make sure young people keep their skills fresh and relevant. However, businesses do have a big part to play in this. At UKFast, we’re lucky to have Aaron Saxton, a former teacher, as our director of training and education. When he joined us last year, he took on the responsibility of heading up our education programme and introducing an apprenticeship scheme. He’s been great at getting our apprentices through their training and examinations and they are well on the way to achieving some valuable qualifications, such as Microsoft Technical Associate (MTA) and Linux Professional Certifications (LPIC) credentials. It’s also important that businesses don’t undermine the importance of apprenticeships by paying their apprentices the minimum they can get away with. I know some people might disagree, but I think if you’re trying to inspire and motivate people then they need to feel as valued as everyone else in the team, and they need to know that you’re putting real trust and responsibility in their hands. For any long lasting impact to be made, it’s got to be a real investment, not just a token act going through the motions. Apprenticeships offer a win-win situation as they have great benefits, not just for the young people involved, but the businesses providing the placements, and the future of the industry as a whole. Lawrence Jones is the CEO of UKFast.
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