Web design and development is the country’s leading growth area for employment. The amount of people working in the industry is predicted to rise by 57% before 2024.
Source: GOV digital strategy
Good news for the industry, you might think. But we are not at all prepared to meet this rise in demand for skilled developers. So where do we go from here?
Solutions are starting to emerge. Higher and Further education in the UK is slowly coming round to addressing the needs of our industry. Places like The National College for Digital Skills - Ada - in Tottenham are pioneering schemes to prepare young people for a career in our digital economy. Many other institutions are following suit with degree apprenticeships and covering more practical, vocational skills with their teaching. The issue though, is that these schemes can’t plug the gap that exists now. I can’t think of a team who would not benefit from a competent junior to take pressure off their more experienced developers right now.
We’ve reached a tipping point. Our industry needs to step up and train an immediate talent pipeline. If we don't, we risk losing our current leading edge to the other countries who have been working on their pipelines for a good few years now.
Part of the solution is to teach people on-the-job. Ours is not an academic world - everything useful that we know comes from experience. It is a practical job, it takes practice. Teaching people the skills they need in the workplace is a great way of future-proofing our industry and turning this around.
The best people to teach web development are web developers.
Necessity aside, there are also many positive reasons to hire an apprentice, which leaves me wondering why we haven’t been doing this for years. The kickbacks and benefits to our teams and our businesses are many and invaluable. Having an apprentice provides opportunities for team building through mentor and buddy relationships, refining operational process, documenting and distributing individual knowledge to the team, as well as for professional development of the wider team with management experience.
Having a person on your team with very little experience forces you and your team to develop and work better together.
Extremely cost effective
A graduate is unlikely to come to you with any more practical skills than someone without a degree who has started coding by themselves but they will cost you more in salary. With the support of a decent training provider you will be able to get an apprentice providing billable web development work within weeks. Most from our scheme are more than paying their way within three or four months. Minimum wage for an apprentice in their first year is just £3:30 an hour (although we do not work with anyone paying less than £5 and most increase wages as their apprentice produces more billable work).
The government provides generous financial incentives to companies who take on apprentices to cover the training they need to produce billable work.
Help and support
Over the next few months we’ll be publishing materials to help web development companies in particular get involved with apprenticeships. Guides for effective mentoring, case studies, example personal development plans, and more. We also host a discussion group for companies and teams involved in or thinking about apprenticeships in our industry.
- Increased resource
- Better team morale
- Refined processes
- Cost effective recruitment
- Increased pipeline of new talent
- Better developers
- Real world skills learned from experts
- No student debt
- Fast track into career into leading growth area
In our industry we adapt fast and often. The most successful developers, the most successful teams, the most successful companies are the ones who are able to recognise change, take on emerging technologies and adapt to our ever changing landscape. I think it was Gandhi who said:
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
We all need to be that change now.