This week the government set out its vision for a better Britain in its Industrial Strategy. It represents a long-term, ambitious blueprint for action – where Britain can lead the way in areas from artificial intelligence to smart energy and driverless cars to pharma, to deliver inclusive growth.
To make this vision a reality, the government rightly recognises that a significant investment in skills is required. There are simply not enough people currently with the skills that businesses need to drive future growth. And the pace of technological change means that we must start developing our home-grown talent now, or risk being left behind in the fourth industrial revolution. By having the right people to drive innovation we will continue to attract inward investment, sell our services abroad and play a significant role internationally.
But in building the skills of tomorrow, we also need to do things differently from the past. The government will only achieve its aim of building a better Britain if everyone, right across the UK, has a fair chance to succeed and benefit from economic gains.
This is the opportunity for business and the government to work together to make sure that the high-skilled and high-paid jobs of tomorrow are attainable whatever an individual’s background.
The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report highlighted this week that despite progress, where someone is born still largely determines their future success. Against this backdrop, it’s clear that a new approach is needed.
We need to evolve the skills agenda so that government, business and education work closer together to deliver the skills and experience of tomorrow. Degree apprenticeships are a great example of the opportunities that exist for different parties to come together to do this.
Earlier this year we launched our technology degree apprenticeships with the Universities of Birmingham and Leeds as a way to help to build the pipeline of future technology talent. Today we’re announcing that we’ve extended this programme further to Queen’s University, Belfast. We’ll now give 100 young people a year the chance to develop in-demand technology skills and experience.
Designing the programme has given us the chance to think differently about the best way to build the skills our clients and our business needs tomorrow. We’ve used the apprenticeship levy to fund the programme in Britain and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, meaning that the students will not incur any student debt. Therefore opening up the programme to more students.
We’ve also decided to base the technology degree apprenticeships outside of London. This gives more young people right across the country the chance to build the skills and experience that could lead to the high-paid jobs of the future. Maintaining a strong capital, while at the same time rebalancing our economy across the UK will be an important component of our future prosperity.
We recognise that we won’t close the technology skills gap on our own. But as one of the largest graduate employers we believe we have a responsibility to continually evolve and offer different routes into the industry. We also recognise the importance of reaching young people at an earlier stage to raise aspirations and awareness. And to focus our efforts on the government’s social mobility coldspots.
Some interventions, such as degree apprenticeships, will only reach those starting out in their careers. Building a better Britain will require investment in skills development throughout people’s lives, especially as technology is set to change people’s jobs.
The pace of technological change makes it imperative that we invest in skills now with new entrants into the workforce, but it also gives us the chance to do things differently to ensure that the jobs of the future are truly open to all.