The number of people starting ICT apprenticeships in the UK has risen over the past year, but this number is still 16.6 per cent below the 2011/12 peak.
Research by UK contractor services provider SJD Accountancy shows that the number of ICT apprenticeships starts jumped by 18.2 per cent to 15,440 in 2014/15, up from 13,060 in 2013/14, according to data obtained from the Skills Funding Agency.
Enrolments are below the 2011/12 peak, however, when 18,520 workers started ICT apprenticeships.
The number of applicants for every ICT apprenticeship has declined slightly over the past year too. There were 124,640 applications in 2014/15, just over eight for every place. In 2013/14 there were more than 10 applications for every apprenticeship.
Simon Curry, Chief Executive Officer of SJD Accountancy, commented: “Efforts by the Government to increase the number of apprenticeships have been patchy but now seem to be achieving a measure of success.
"While it is encouraging that the four-year decline in the number of people starting ICT apprenticeships has at last been reversed, the number of opportunities is still significantly below what it was during the depths of the recession.
"Demand for tech skills is forecast to grow twice as fast as the UK average over the next few years, so increasing the talent pipeline will be vital to meeting that demand.
"Apprenticeships are a key component of that pipeline, but in places like London where demand for tech skills is particularly robust, apprenticeships places are extremely hard to come by.”
He added: “For a lot of young people apprenticeships are an important route into the IT industry. They are also a very effective way for employers to equip people with the latest skills and can ease recruitment difficulties further down the line, particularly for SMEs who often struggle to compete for skills.”
SJD Accountancy says the Government must incentivise employers to create apprenticeships, in order to help the UK reduce its growing reliance on non-EU IT professionals.
The number of IT professionals coming to the UK from outside the EU to address skill shortages jumped by 13 per cent over the past year, from 30,189 in 2013 to 34,229 in 2014. The migration cap was hit for the first time in June and July this year, meaning that many employers were not able to access the skills they need from outside the EU.
Simon Curry added: “In conjunction with supporting more apprenticeships, the Government should consider part-funding computer science courses to increase the graduate pipeline and a tax relief for IT contractors so that they can offset some of the cost of training.”
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