Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Bridging the digital skills gap with the next generation of apprentices

July 28, 2020

To welcome our largest induction of new apprentices, Gillian Keegan MP and Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, joined us to discuss how apprentices will shape our digital future.

Technology is creating new pathways to remove inequities and power an inclusive future. With a growing appetite amongst nearly three-quarters of 16 to 24-year old’s to gain more digital skills in the next 12 months, it’s vital that our government, businesses and industry step up to help young people feel supported and included.

That’s why it was with great pride that I took part in a virtual launch event to welcome our 60 new apprentices. They are our most diverse to date – 47% are female, 42% are from minority ethnic groups and 35% are from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Participating in a three-year programme, our apprentices will go on a journey around our organisation to develop their skills; and, in return we will learn from their fresh thinking, cultural diversity and reverse mentoring.

We also had a special guest join our celebratory event – Gillian Keegan MP, who is the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister and the only former apprentice in the House of Commons. She shared her personal work experiences and the value apprenticeships bring to the UK and our young people.

After leaving her comprehensive secondary school at 16, the Minister joined General Motors in Kirby as a Degree Apprentice and told us it was the best decision she ever made. Interestingly, her apprenticeship programme was similar to ours as she worked on a rotation whilst studying a day a week to degree level.

For the Minister, her learnings as an apprentice have stayed with her for life. After 30 years in business and wanting to do something different, the Minister designed her own apprenticeship to move into politics and become an MP. To fill the gaps in her knowledge, she joined an NHS board as well as a high street one, and became a councillor, before winning her commons seat in 2017. It was compelling to hear the Minister reflect on the versatility and resilience she learnt as an apprentice and continually apply it to her evolving career path.

The Minister’s passion for apprenticeships shone throughout our discussion as she advocated this way of learning, working and the opportunities that it brings. She said that as an apprentice, you can transfer your knowledge between work and academia and this helps to keep you sharp, relevant and on-point. Whilst being an apprentice also makes you highly productive as from the get-go, you’re contributing to the economy.

As we discussed the unprecedented times we’ve been living in and the legacy of apprenticeships, the Minister spoke about the skills gap we are facing and how we need to quickly reskill people to fill it. Apprenticeships support this demand as they provide people of any age with the opportunity to upskill or switch skills, at any level, so they can be more relevant to employers.

The Minister’s parting words to our audience were to ride every tech wave and be at the front of it, to help ‘leapfrog’ your career. I agree – every technology wave provides the opportunity for everyone, and especially our apprentices, to build the digital skills we need to create a prosperous and inclusive future.

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  1. I love this guys, well done team, I love that Cisco is backing us Apprentices