• WorkLife
  • How apprenticeships are addressing the rising demand for digital skills in the workplace

    Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the importance of digital skills at work. Almost overnight, remote working has become the default setting for millions along with all that this entails, including navigating new technology.

    Apprenticeships offer companies the perfect opportunity to enhance the digital skill set of their workforce, either by training existing employees or onboarding new talent, as well as improving productivity and motivation.

    De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is one of the leading providers for apprenticeships in the region, drawing on decades of experience in providing vocational programmes tailored to business needs. Its digital expertise in AI, cyber security and computing have made it the natural choice for companies looking for apprenticeship courses in these fields.

    Apprentices are taught by DMU’s academic experts, who bring the benefits of their cutting-edge research to the classroom. The content of the courses are informed by the university’s Industry Advisory Board, which includes companies such as IBM, Deloitte, Airbus and BT, to ensure that the skills match those needed by employers.

    The university offers three distinct degree apprenticeships which focus on digital skills, with Data Analyst (level 4) and Data Scientist (level 6) set to be launched later this year. The current programmes are:

    Dr Elmina Homapour is the academic lead for apprentices in DMU’s Computing, Engineering and Media faculty. She said: “Apprentices gain more embedded skills compared with a normal degree, because they are able to put what they learn into practice. We have apprentices of all ages, as well. Some have worked for the company for years but their degree was gained a few years ago.

    “Technology moves on so quickly, it’s always changing and knowledge constantly needs updating. We see many apprentices whose knowledge is based on what was taught decades ago and it’s just not relevant any more.

    “It’s really important most of our staff are research active. They are up to date with the latest developments in their subjects and know what skills businesses will need to thrive in the future.”

    Dr Funmi Obembe, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems at DMU added “In the last decade partly as a result of various enablers, there has been an explosion of data, its storage and its use. Some of these enablers include the open source economy, reduced storage costs and innovative technologies for processing of big data. Among other things Data professionals draw actionable insights from data using analytics (e.g. descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics), machine learning algorithms, data science, deep learning and so on.

    “The actionable insights and innovative solutions obtained from these helps to give organisations competitive advantage and hence makes them extremely valuable. This also explains why data professionals are in high demand and why there is currently a shortage, as demand continues to outstrip supply.”

    Apprentices combine their academic learning with on-the-job training, allowing them to put into practice their learning from online study and in-person teaching days. Workplace mentorship further supports apprentices in their training.

    Employers who pay into the Government’s apprenticeship levy can draw down from that fund to cover 100% of the cost of an apprenticeship. Non-levy paying organisations will have 95% of the cost met.

    To find out more about digital apprenticeships at DMU, employers can contact apprenticeships@dmu.ac.uk.


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