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How Degree Apprenticeships are addressing IT skills gaps in Wales

The Applied Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship is a fully-funded programme through The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, which The Open University in Wales offers all employers in Wales.

Skills shortages are costing Welsh organisations over £150 million pounds according The Open University Business Barometer 2019, which monitors the business landscape of Wales and the rest of the UK. Welsh organisations are spending, on average, £13,740 on buying in new talent.

One key area identified by the report was IT skills, with over 30% of Welsh businesses highlighting these skills as lacking in job applicants. A second report from The Open University, Bridging the Digital Divide, highlights the extent of digital skills gaps and the impact they are having on organisations and their employees. Currently, nine in 10 UK organisations admit they have a shortage of digital skills, which is already having a significant negative impact on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness.

An emerging picture

The Bridging the Digital Divide report found that the majority (85%) of senior leaders agree that it will become necessary to move to a model of lifelong learning in future, where employees are constantly developing and building new skills. This also comes with other benefits, with employers reporting increased productivity (41%) and better engagement (31%) amongst those who have upskilled.

It was a similar picture in the Business Barometer report. Across the whole of the UK, seven in 10 employers agree that developing the skills of the existing workforce is a more sustainable approach to tackling the skills shortage.

However, it is crucial that any training offered helps rather than hinders. The OU in Wales offers flexible, technology-enabled degrees and apprenticeships, which allow employees to fit learning around work and personal commitments – and which nearly three in five Welsh employers believe is less disruptive than other forms of training.

Degree apprenticeships in focus

The Applied Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship is a fully-funded programme through The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), which the OU in Wales offers all employers in Wales. The programme equips apprentices with the knowledge, skills and behavioural characteristics required to be a competent software engineering professional. It is delivered flexibly through blended learning around the demands of the job role and requiring minimal time away from the workplace, using our tutor-supported, technology-based learning which combines both work-based and academic learning.

The apprentice will gain practical experience of designing, building and evaluating software components and systems. The BSc (Honours) Applied Software Engineering is awarded by the OU in Wales when the apprentice has successfully completed the programme.

Case study: Method4

The Open University in Wales started working with Method4 in 2018. Method4 is a software company located in central Cardiff – a city becoming increasingly known as a technology hub. The company builds software using a mix of technology and platforms and is a Microsoft Gold Partner and an Umbraco Gold Partner.

Yuchen Fu was one of the first apprentices in Wales to begin the Applied Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship when she started the programme in February 2019. Unsure about following her friends and going through the traditional university route, Yuchen found a job to take some time to decide upon her future career direction, and found that learning through the working environment suited her best and concluded that software engineering was the career she wanted to pursue.

Yuchen said: “When the opportunity for this degree apprenticeship came up, it seemed to be the perfect package – getting paid whilst learning on the job, and I get a degree? What more could you ask for?

“Each week I spend one workday studying for my degree with the Open University. I have been working on an internal project, building it from scratch. Through this project I have gained experience in many aspects of the development process, from initial design to product demonstration. I have written back-end and front-end code, both by myself as well as in collaboration with others.”

Over the past six months I have learned so much, which consequently has helped my confidence grow. I still have far more to learn, but I could not have asked for a better start to my career!

Yuchen Fu, Degree Apprentice

Sarah Howarth, Business Manager, Method4 explained: “Method4 is proud to be one of the first employers in Wales to employ under the degree level apprenticeship scheme. The Open University is able to offer higher education for our employees, whilst they develop digital skills that can be used immediately in the workplace.” 

Yuchen added: “Being on the first Software Engineering degree-level apprenticeship scheme in Wales, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, my experience so far has been greater than anything I could have hoped for.”

The Open University in Wales has fully-funded places available on the Applied Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship. Deadline for registration is in November, so please get in touch with us as soon as possible to find out whether this programme is the right fit for your business and employees. Fill out our contact form and we'll be in touch.

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News

The Applied Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship is a fully-funded programme through The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, which The Open University in Wales offers all employers in Wales.

How Degree Apprenticeships are addressing IT skills gaps in Wales

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