A robust schools outreach programme is cutting recruitment costs and giving young people – and especially women – the confidence and skills to thrive in an increasingly digital workplace.
- Just 23 per cent of the UK’s technology industry workforce is female
- the first company to create Degree Apprenticeships which provide a degree without paying £9,000 a year
- Since 2014, 15,000 young people supported
- 93 per cent of those who join the programme continue on with it, with 50 per cent on track to achieve a First.
The UK has long faced a big skills gap, particularly when it comes to the technology and engineering sectors. Yet the demand for innovation from the digital and cyber security markets is relentless.
Last Christmas, youth unemployment reached beyond 12 per cent, but with around 700,000 job vacancies on offer, it is clear that young people do not leave school or university with the right skills suitable for the roles that need filling. Meanwhile, women, ethnic minorities and disabled groups are severely under-represented in the technology and professional services industries. In fact, just 23 per cent of the UK’s technology industry workforce is female.
Tackling youth unemployment
It is a problem that must be addressed. And although there is more for the Government and local authorities to do in up-skilling young people and readying them for the workplace, it is everybody’s problem to solve. That is certainly the view of Michelle Perkins, director of schools outreach at Capgemini, a professional services business keen to turn the tide on social exclusion and the perception of young people that it is an industry not open to them as a career option. “It is unfair for businesses to say we are not getting the right people coming through. Business has a role to change that too,” she says.
The business, one of the top providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, has developed a multi-pronged approach to growing its own talent, for itself, its clients and the industry overall. “Our vision is to have talented Capgemini ex-apprentices shaping technology over the next decade and beyond,” says Perkins.
So, its apprentice programme gives young people a foothold in technology that was previously only available to graduates. In fact, it was the first company to create Degree Apprenticeships which provide a degree without paying £9,000 a year for the privilege.
“To be the best, we need to include the most talented people who reflect how ubiquitous technology is in society.”
Working in partnership to make a real difference
Since 2014, Capgemini has helped around 15,000 young people build confidence, skills, networks and technical knowhow. In 2016, it worked with 60 schools to deliver its Digital Partnership with the Prince’s Trust, a programme designed to improve the digital skills of 600 disadvantaged young people over the course of four years. By last December, the business had supported 118 young people, including 66 who attended a week-long digital skills course. And at least 28 of the 66 are now in either employment, training, education or volunteering.
“ 93 per cent of those who join our programme continue on with it, with 50 per cent on track to achieve a First. ”
Meanwhile, when it comes to recruitment, the company has introduced a ‘strengths-based’ approach to the interview process in a bid to be more open to candidates. This is based on job fit and future potential, rather than just background and achievements. “When I left the Army I worried I was too old to be an Apprentice. Throughout the process I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the interviewers were and the fact that at 26 I was still able to join the Degree Apprenticeship,” says Mark, a software engineer.
A legacy of success
But the real difference being made is ensuring that the apprentices coming through its doors are making positive progress. “Unlike many employers, our apprentices are permanent employees. Our Degree Apprentices get a debt-free university degree and 93 per cent of those who join our programme continue on with it, with 50 per cent on track to achieve a First.
As for the concrete business benefits of such an approach to Capgemini, working with schools to promote apprenticeships certainly reduces recruitment costs. “With key schools we tailor what the school/students want, focussing on small numbers rather than talking generically to whole year groups. From some schools we now get 10-15 student applications a year, solely with some schools having three successful students,” says Perkins.
But the key return on investment is measured by how clients perceive the business and whether it is creating new commercial opportunities. Working alongside clients on projects like The Prince’s Trust showcases Capgemini’s commitment to digital skills – and clients which are also committed to the agenda and looking for partners who have common values. Of course, ethics and social responsibility are an increasingly common component of any procurement process.
“We have a proud reputation of working collaboratively with our clients to deliver the most complex projects realising tangible business value,” says Paul Margetts, Apps UK CEO. “And we are able to do this because we have an extremely talented, and ever more diverse, workforce.”