Developments in technology make apprentices more valuable (Guest Post)

Ben RowlandThis guest post comes from Ben Rowland, co-founder of Arch Apprentices, the UK’s leading digital and IT apprenticeship provider.

Why is demand for IT and digital apprentices among companies growing so rapidly?

Google, Facebook,, Barclays, Lloyds, The Guardian, Hearst Magazines, Age UK and a growing number of agencies, government bodies and SMEs have already recruited nearly 500 apprentices in just two years through the programme I co-founded, Arch Apprentices.  And we’re not the only ones.

Why has demand gone from almost zero to thousands in just 24 months?

The main reason is, I think, that these companies are moving their hiring practices from the ‘old’ world to the ‘new’, to catch up with how their development and deployment of technology has already moved from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’.

The ‘old’ world for technology development and deployment was: large projects, proprietary software, tight project management, detailed and comprehensive specification, carefully crafted release timetables, owning and running one’s own infrastructure.

The ‘new’ world is: agile, rapid preto- and proto-typing, intense user feedback, minimum viable product, scrum, cloud, using and re-using open source assets, single purpose apps, temporary.

Most self-respecting firms in the digital economy moved out of the ‘old’ world sometime in the noughties, and most publishers, advertisers, government bodies and their support firms are now frantically trying to catch up.

And their recruitment is catching up as well.

The important attributes companies recruited for in the old world were (or in some cases still are): reporting, control, managerial ‘nous’, procurement, deep understanding of the software and hardware that was bought in, the ability to ‘mystify’ as a route to revenue.

Young peopleWhat companies are now looking for to flourish in the ‘new’ world are: ability to change, willingness to learn, love of the ‘nuts and bolts’, joy in getting feedback, user-centric mind set and so on.

And guess who have these attributes in spades?

Young people.

Even better are young people who haven’t yet been ‘tarnished’ by ‘old world’ experiences, and who you can mould and shape to be who you want them to be. This is exactly what apprentices can offer.

If firms want to acquire the skills and attributes they want to flourish in the ‘new’ world and take on young people, then they need to change how they recruit.

In particular, the process of assessing people on the basis of who they know, their experience, their qualifications and how well they describe themselves to a stranger in a one hour time block (a curious ritual known as “the interview”) needs to change.

Instead, it becomes important to assess hunger, curiosity, ability to take and process feedback, attitude towards the ‘nuts and bolts’, focus.

This is exactly how we approach the assessment of apprenticeship candidates at Arch. I believe this is why we are successfully helping leading UK businesses enhance their IT & digital productivity and build their future talent pipelines, while making a contribution to opening up opportunities for young people to break into exciting and rewarding careers in vital industries.