There is a lot of talk within the IT industry of a skills shortage, a lack of talented recruits for employers. For too long now the software industry has recruited from University graduates. At Hindsight we believe this University focus is short sighted and detrimental to the industry. There are many capable people who do not go to university for a variety reasons; exam nerves, Illness, and cost of University tuition fees are all valid reasons. Because we value talented people and practical skills over theoretical knowledge, we have established our own apprenticeship programme at Hindsight.

For over 30 years apprenticeships fell out of favour, alongside the expansion of Higher Education. Roles that previously had been offered as apprenticeships (especially in Science and Engineering) got subsumed into graduate programs. Perhaps the most striking example of this was Nursing, where previously 16-18 year olds could train at a hospital to be nurses, it became a degree course, with no access for those who wanted to learn in a practical manner.

A by product of this switch is schools do not promote Apprenticeships as a viable alternative to the traditional A-level and University route. We believe the main cause is the lack of understanding by teachers on what is on offer and the league table system for schools is very simplistic and doesn’t reward what is best for pupils.

The rise of the IT industry ran parallel with the fall of apprenticeships. Universities were the only place where people could study Computer Science, turning out graduates with good academic knowledge but few practical skills for working in the IT industry.

There are simply not enough graduates coming out of universities, and when they do, they do not have the practical and ‘'employability' skills many companies seek. Apprentices, in comparison, receive on-the-job mentoring to build their competency, in a real world work environment combined with part-time college education.

When a graduate enters the work place, they may have good theoretical knowledge, but they have to learn the same working skills as an apprentice. Graduates do pick up things quicker, but often they have to unlearn skills they acquired as students, in order to suit the practices of the company. Apprentices learn the skills that are needed in the Industry right now, from experienced staff, rather than knowledge driven by the research interests of the academic staff.

The current IT and Computer Science curriculum isn't challenging for young people who are interested in the practical side of the subject, rather than the theoretical side. This leads to young people not reaching their full potential, seeking careers outside IT, or, all too often, deciding not to study the subject at all.

At Hindsight, we try to identify talented young people, who are interested in IT, but do not want to attend University. We believe that an apprenticeship gives young people a jump on their careers through the value experience gained. The workplace offers the challenge they are looking for, and they have the opportunity to learn directly from industry experts, working alongside them on real projects, rather than professors and lecturers who have no practical experience of working in the IT industry.

In terms of cost, apprenticeships offer the young person a far more cost effective education than current University Fees. Although graduates are paid more when they enter the industry, they also have a huge debt, as they start their careers. Plus, with the five years experience, former apprentices will be above graduates on the career ladder. For the employer, apprenticeships build a loyal workforce. HR research has consistently shown that competency based training increases employee retention rates, and this is the core of an apprenticeships programme. Apprentices are more likely to build their career within your company, than graduates who are always looking for the next opportunity.


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