Linking Talent and Opportunities: Integrating SMEs in the Wider Apprenticeship Ecosystem

Tech Skills Research and Development Officer Aoife Sheehy recently participated in the Global Apprenticeship Network Conference at JP Morgan in Canary Wharf London to engage with global influencers discussing the value of apprenticeships as strategic investments as a means to overcoming the skills gap.
Linking Talent and Opportunities: Integrating SMEs in the Wider Apprenticeship Ecosystem
Linking Talent and Opportunities: Integrating SMEs in the Wider Apprenticeship Ecosystem

Organised by the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and hosted by J.P Morgan, the event brought together a panel of experts to discuss how best to integrate SMEs in the wider apprenticeship ecosystem.

In the introductory remarks, Viswas Raghavan, the head of banking for JPMorgan in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, emphasised the quality of the people we can harness via the apprenticeship route and that the current skills gap can be catered for by recruiting this way.

The day was structured to allow for vibrant panellist discussions that showcased the experiences and expertise of all involved. With employers firmly in the driving seat, apprenticeships offer hands-on experience necessary to sustain a good skills system. Referring to the widely publicised stat by the World Economic Forum, 65% of Gen Z will be doing jobs that don’t exist today, so the big question on the day was “how do we prepare for jobs that we don’t yet know about?”

Thomas D. Meyer, CEO of Accenture Switzerland, a leading expert in Business Transformation through Technology, spoke on the importance of lifelong learning in enabling people to continue engaging in the workplace, for which the apprenticeship model plays a massive role.

So what does this mean for SMEs?

Chris Dunning, Founder and CEO of TechQuarters, spoke of his experience in hiring apprentices to build a talent pool in a cost-effective manner. With 25 % of staff having come through the apprenticeship route, it has been a true success story of nurturing bespoke talent.

Although the event was mostly tailored to the UK market, there was a lot to learn for the Irish context, from the role of the apprenticeship levy to the introduction of female bursaries. For smaller companies who feel they are competing with larger corporations, it was advised to focus on the role and that we often over-emphasise the attractiveness of a brand. We must emphasise what will be learned and the variety of tasks. But perhaps, most importantly, the opportunities for progression.

Lilley Deevy, a former apprentice and member of the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network, said we need to listen to the target audience more, stressing that young people are not all about ‘bean bags and free food’ and are enthusiastic about their learning journeys.

With such great insight and confirmation of the apprenticeship model as a remedy for the growing skills gap, how do we boost both employer and candidate take up?

Panellists expressed the need for greater output of good quality career guidance in raising awareness of the range of apprenticeships available. Apprenticeships need to be seen for the value they bring and that they are not an alternative to third level, but a counter-offer for those who thrive in a practical learning environment. We need to pride role models who have been through the system and share the good news stories.

Alex Fleming, CEO of the Adecco Group, stressed that apprenticeships provide the opportunity to give people a different route of entry, something which is crucial in addressing the skills gap.

There was a clear take-way message from the day; we need to change the mind-set around apprenticeships, we need them to be valued, we need them to be ‘cool’.

FIT are the National Coordinators of Ireland’s New Tech Apprenticeships in Software Development and Network Engineering. For more information check out our website or follow us @FastrackintoIT on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. For more information on the work of the GAN, their website can be found here.


About FIT

FIT is an industry-led initiative which works to promote an inclusive Smart Economy by creating a fast track to marketable technical skills for those at risk of long term unemployment.

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