Investment in digital skills could bolster interest in IT apprenticeships

The government has unveiled plans to invest £5 million in the UK’s digital skills base in order to enhance the nation’s economic potential and boost youth employment.

Funding will be allocated in London through the Growth Deals initiative and will see companies looking to recruit young talent in order to create a greater pool of home-grown experts in the field of IT.

Why has the digital skills funding been allocated?

The £5 million to boost digital skills in London is part of the first £6 billion of projects to be supported by the government’s Local Growth Fund for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

London has been allocated a total of £151 million through the scheme, which is operated in partnership with local authorities and businesses across England.

It is intended to secure the country’s economic future, with plans to invest at least £12 billion in local economies, providing funding to train young people, generate new jobs and recruitment opportunities, build infrastructure and deliver new homes.

Key outcomes for the initiative include “working to improve educational attainment” and “getting more people from welfare to work”.

Commenting on the purpose of the Growth Deals, prime minister David Cameron said: “By trusting local people, backing business and investing in infrastructure, skills and housing, we can create thousands of new jobs.”

What will the digital skills funding be used for?

With a total of £55 million granted to the London Skills Capital programme, the £5 million for digital talent development is expected to help both businesses and young people looking for work.

It will contribute towards a pilot programme aimed at increasing the capital’s ICT education capacity “at a systemic level”, according to Computerworld UK.

Speaking to the publication, deputy mayor of London Kit Malthouse explained the investment in skills training will “help to solve the problem with digital skills whereby London’s economy is sucking in talent from around the globe”.

In addition to the £5 million pot for digital skills, the government has also allocated £110 million to increase capital investment in further education in London, with digital and technology skills a focus of the funding.

The Growth Deals grants are intended to go straight to businesses and local authorities via LEPs so they can decide where it is best spent and provide match funding, with Mr Malthouse welcoming the announcement as “great news”.
He stated: “Technology is an area we feel is very important for future skills. And there will be a big injection of capital for further education.”
What benefits will the digital skills initiative bring?
LEPs have drawn up Strategic Economic Plans for their areas that focus on delivering growth and jobs, with the £5 million digital talent programme focusing on areas where there are skills shortages in London, such as coders, developers and programmers.

Young people will be provided with training for three to six months, enabling them to become apprentices and establish a career in ICT.

In comments made to Computerworld UK, Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, explained he would like to see the funding used in schools and further education colleges to identify those individuals who have “got a gift for this world, who aren’t necessarily succeeding academically but for whom this can be a real route to success”.

He added further development of digital skills will come out of the inclusion of coding on the school curriculum from September 2014.

During a tour of start-up support organisation Central Working, Mr Maude welcomed the numbers of women using the space to establish businesses and highlighted the opportunities for young women in the digital sector.

Greater investment in improving home-grown talent in London’s digital arena will provide those recruiting specialists in this field with a greater pool to choose from and could help to address some of the sector’s skills gaps.