Professional services company PwC has created a new fully-funded technology degree apprenticeship to give more young people from a broader range of backgrounds the opportunity to get into a career in tech.
Starting in September 2018, the innovative programme will initially see 80 students a year combining university life with practical work-based technology projects at PwC, based in the same city as they are studying.
PwC is one of the UK’s largest graduate employers and is developing the four-year course in partnership with two leading universities: the University of Birmingham and the University of Leeds.
It will be one of the first and largest example of the new Level 6 Degree Apprenticeships in action. Students will be PwC employees from the first day and receive a salary throughout.
At the end of the programme they will come away with a degree in Computer Science and a job at PwC, if they meet performance criteria.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, said: “For the UK to prosper post-Brexit we need to invest in creating a vibrant tech sector right across the country and more people with the skills needed to help businesses transform.
“The demand for technology advice is rapidly increasing, while the pool of available tech talent is shrinking and could be impacted further by Brexit.
“To meet these challenges we need to be even more innovative in the way we develop skills and recruit people.
“Our new technology degree apprenticeship is an exciting new way for us to start to grow the future of the UK’s technology industry at a much earlier stage and to open up these careers to a wider range of students from across the country.”
PwC claims it is another step in its aim to drive radical changes in the diversity and social mobility of the professional services industry by opening up broader access to talented young people.
The technology degree apprenticeship has been designed to help address the UK’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s diversity.
PwC research reveals that over two thirds (67 per cent) of UK CEOs find it difficult to recruit people with digital skills, higher than their global peers.
Recruiting women with these skills is particularly challenging: separate PwC research found that only 27 per cent of female A-level and university students would consider a career in technology compared to 62 per cent of males.
To address this, PwC will particularly target its technology degree apprenticeship at getting more females interested in technology careers, as well using its Back to School programme to raise awareness of the programme with students in more disadvantaged areas.
“Technology is already fundamentally changing the way we live and work. Rather than fearing these technological changes, we believe it is a huge opportunity to create new jobs and rebalance our economy and society,” Ellis continued.
“We see our technology degree apprenticeship as a way to get more young people from across society to be part of this exciting change and to equip them with the skills to be the business leaders of the future.
“People often perceive that all the tech talent needs to be in London, but with our programme we are opening up the opportunities right across the country and to people who may have thought that university or technology careers were out of their reach.”
Professor Jon Binner, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “At the University of Birmingham, we are passionate about providing our students with the best opportunities and experiences possible to prepare them for the world of employment.
“We are delighted to develop this four-year course with PwC, which will provide our students with the skills set, expertise and experience that are highly in-demand from industry.
“The University of Birmingham is a civic university, and has always welcomed students from all religions and backgrounds on an equal basis.
“Like PwC, we too believe in addressing the UK’s technology skills gap and improving the industry’s diversity, and are proud to be instrumental in educating the industry’s future talent.”
Professor Peter Jimack, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds, said: “Deepening the relationship between universities and leading private sector businesses is one of the key ways academia can support the UK’s economy.
“By working together we can use the latest research to educate students, who will benefit greatly from also having significant workplace training on top of their academic studies.
“Degree apprenticeships, such as the Computer Science programme we have developed with PwC, are the latest way we are adapting traditional modes of higher education to create a skilled workforce with the experience needed by employers.
“We have a long-standing record of success in attracting students from all backgrounds to study at Leeds and we see this degree apprenticeship as another example of this commitment.”