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A graduate apprenticeship in digital skills offering a degree-level qualification is to be made available for the first time.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is working in partnership with global IT company CGI Group Inc. and a number of Scottish universities on the project, which will see the firm funding at least 20 graduate-level apprenticeship starts over the next two years.

The initiative aimed at tackling the shortage of skills in Scotland’s growing digital sector was announced at Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship Awards, hosted by SDS at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms.

CGI was the principal partner for the awards which saw winners announced across 10 categories celebrating the contribution made by apprentices to Scotland’s economy.

The announcement was made by CGI’s Public Sector Scotland Director, Maggie Morrison, a leading advocate for increasing access, diversity and gender equality in Scotland’s digital industries.

She said: “The future is digital and we need to make sure we have enough new entrants coming into the industry to maximise the benefits for the people of Scotland and the Scottish economy.

“Our investment in the future of the country’s growing IT sector demonstrates this, with our commitment to graduate apprenticeships reflecting their potential in offering an innovative new route into the industry.

“Enterprise and education need to work in partnership to address this issue, from the development of work-based learning to ensuring all of our young people have the chance to learn computing science in our classrooms.”

Clear demand from employers

Apprentices will gain the knowledge, skills and experience needed by the industry through a mixture of university and work-based learning while also being employed and getting paid.

The apprenticeship will lead to a degree with an industry-standard skills accreditation, along with accelerated membership of professional bodies related to the sector.

The announcement follows CGI’s commitment to create 200 new jobs and 60 Modern Apprentices in the capital after being awarded a seven-year, £186 million contract to improve digital services for citizens by City of Edinburgh Council

Two years ago, CGI also set up an Open Digital Services Centre in Glasgow city centre which will create more than 250 high-quality jobs.

John F McClelland CBE, Chair of SDS, said: “There is a clear demand from employers in Scotland’s digital sector for new entrants with higher-level skills, and SDS is working with industry and education to help satisfy this demand.

“This bold new initiative offers real potential to boost the skills pipeline, and underlines the fundamental importance of work-based learning in aligning education with the needs of industry.

“Other developments such as Foundation Apprenticeships – where school pupils can complete elements of an apprenticeship while still in the classroom – also reflect this, and such a partnership approach is essential if businesses are to have access to the skills they need to compete in the global marketplace.”

Welcome move

The awards were also be attended by Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham, who welcomed the announcement.

She said: “The annual Modern Apprenticeship Awards are always a great opportunity to celebrate the contribution that Scotland’s apprentices – and the companies that employ them – make to our economic growth.

“We know that our digital sector needs more recruits to ensure it continues to grow and I am very pleased to see CGI working with our Higher Education sector on creating new graduate apprenticeship opportunities in IT. This is a welcome move and one that I hope other employers will follow.”

The project is the latest in a series of initiatives developed in partnership with SDS and industry to tackle the digital sector skills shortage.

A Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s ICT and Digital Technologies Sector was launched last year, backed by £6.6million from the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership.

The plan identified the potential for 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year until 2020, often paying well above average.

Other initiatives resulting from the plan include the launch of Scotland’s first Digital Skills Academy, CodeClan, giving people the chance to train as software developers in just 16 weeks through an intensive course designed to help satisfy the demand from industry for coders.

A multi-channel marketing campaign entitled Digital World is also underway, encouraging more people to consider a career in Scotland’s digital sector through a mix of television, digital and out-of-home advertising along with a dedicated website offering case studies and a wealth of careers information.

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