The Tech Partnership is a network of employers working together to upskill the nation for jobs in the UK’s digital economy. This is a vital task considering Britain has a shortfall of 40,000 STEM-skilled workers. Bob Clift, head of higher education programmes on behalf of The Tech Partnership, thinks that the apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships on offer that could help shrink the data skills gap.
The employer network has developed two degree apprenticeships at undergraduate level (or Level 6) in Digital and Technology Solutions Professional and Cyber Security Technology Professional. It is the former that will turn out graduates equipped to work in the data industry as data analysts. For the digital and technology solutions degree apprenticeship, apprentices study core technology subjects, but choose one of six specialisms in their final year and so could equally emerge ready to take up jobs as business analysts, cyber security analysts, IT consultants, network engineers or software engineers.
Clift told DataIQ that the idea for the tech degree apprenticeships came from the government. He said: “We were asked by Number 10 to create one and we did. It started in 2015 with eight universities and about 300 students. Last year it was up to 16 universities and we've now got over 700 students in the programme.” He added the number of institutions offering the course has grown substantially as this September there should between 25 and 30 universities offering it.
Institutions offering the data analyst specialism are BPP University, University of East London, University of Exeter, University of Hertfordshire, Leeds Beckett University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Open University, QA (in partnership with University of Roehampton), University of West London and University of Winchester. Four universities are yet to announce the specialisms they will offer.
The Tech Partnership has also created a Level 7 postgraduate degree apprenticeship, the MSc Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist, which allows students to specialise in data analytics. The organisation has also developed three conventional degrees - a BSc and an MSc in IT Management for Business, as well as a BSc in Software Management for Business.
Clift explained that the BSc in IT Management for Business is split equally four ways in the areas of business, technology, project management and personal/interpersonal skills. He said: “It’s creating someone who can hit the ground running. They can look you in the eye, they can conduct themselves well, they have an understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it.”
He stated that these degrees and degree apprenticeships have all been accredited by The Tech Partnership as being Tech Industry Gold. He said that by doing so, “it is broadcasting the fact to employers that the programmes genuinely meet the industry’s needs.” There are over 1,000 companies that are part of The Tech Partnership, such as Boots and Lloyds Banking, that have the opportunity both to contribute to and benefit from the programmes that the organisation develops. They receive regular newsletters, can give input through surveys and help shape the learning materials for the educational programmes, and are also able to help influence government policy.
“The Tech Partnership is viewed as the voice of our industry,” Clift said. “This really is a collaboration. The employers working together are really trying to collaborate with the government to ensure that the very best is done, not just for them, but for the industry as a whole.”
In its report Understanding, Demystifying and Addressing the UK’s Big Data Skills Gap, published in 2016, techUK stated that by 2020, big data and analytics will be worth £241 billion to the UK economy and will create 157,000 additional jobs. TechUK also recommended that the Department for Education must work to ensure more uptake of higher-level apprenticeships from a younger age. This is a task that The Tech Partnership is fully engaged on.