Apprenticeships plugging the digital skills gap

How Baltic Apprenticeships and City & Guilds are working together to deliver essential digital skills training.

01 May 2024

In recent years digital skills have moved from being a bonus to an expectation for employers across most roles and industries. With new technologies constantly emerging and the growing influence of AI, the digital toolkit of skills that employees will need is only likely to expand, creating a skills gap that businesses, training providers and government decision makers must commit to addressing.

Delivering essential digital skills trainingAccording to the UK government’s essential digital skills framework there are five essential categories of digital skills that individuals should have in order to live and work successfully: communicating, handling information and content, transacting, problem solving and being safe and legal online. This framework has been designed and evaluated by a range of experts from charities to academics and sets out the key areas of focus for providers looking to deliver digital skills training that develops the skills and knowledge that individuals and organisations need.

Putting apprenticeships at the centre of digital skills development

By combining a real role in the workplace with training specially designed by industry experts, apprenticeships help learners to develop and apply new skills and knowledge in context. With programmes available across countless sectors and at a variety of levels, apprenticeships provide a valuable route into or through industry that sets apprentices and their employers up for success.  

For young learners looking to embark on a career in a digital focused role an apprenticeship can promote the development of the digital skills they will need with direct support from experienced professionals. While classroom learning, whether theoretical or practical, is a valuable part of training, actually using skills in real workplace scenarios gives learners the chance to both celebrate real successes and learn from mistakes. 

Delivering high quality digital focused training

Delivering essential digital skills trainingIn spite of the clear benefits there is still a lack of awareness around the value of digital focused apprenticeships in helping to close the digital skills gap and provide a pathway for young learners to start their careers. One organisation working to overcome this barrier and help expand and upskill the digital workforce is training provider Baltic Apprenticeships.

Recently identified as one of 13 ‘expert’ apprenticeship providers by the Department for Education and rated outstanding by OFSTED, Baltic Apprenticeships offers a wide range of tech and digital focused apprenticeships across England. By focusing solely on providing tech-focused programmes and a technology centred delivery, Baltic Apprenticeships is in an ideal position to support learners throughout their development, using specialist knowledge and expertise to deliver high quality training and care for apprentices.  

“Our fantastic team make what we do possible.” Brooke Urwin, Chief Operating Officer at Baltic Apprenticeships explained. “We are constantly striving to improve, to ensure we are providing high-quality training that not only bridges the digital skills gap but also paves the way for young learners to kickstart their careers in the ever-evolving tech industry. It’s a fast-paced sector and we have to be able to match that so that we can make sure we’re preparing people for the reality of a digital world.

The real impact is seen and experienced by the apprentices themselves, as they navigate their learning and career journey.

“Although I am only halfway through my apprenticeship, my time learning with Baltic at Matillion has already been a transformative experience.” reflects Isabelle, a Data Engineer Apprentice at Matillion. “This apprenticeship pathway has served as a bridge between academic learning and real-world applications in data science, enabling me to apply theoretical concepts and acquired skills to meaningful professional projects. This apprenticeship has not only enabled a career switch that I once deemed unattainable but has also instilled in me a profound sense of confidence and capability in navigating the dynamic landscape of the tech industry.”

Unleashing potential and solving the declining apprenticeships problem

For Baltic Apprenticeships, guiding young people into a career and building a digitally skilled workforce for the future is the driving force behind both their provision and their work to positively influence the digital skills development landscape. In spite of the number of available apprenticeship standards doubling between 2013 and 2023 and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, there have been declines in both the number of 16-year-old school leavers choosing an apprenticeship and the number of under 19 and SME apprentices overall, something that Baltic Apprenticeships and GK strategy highlight in The Unleashing Potential: Unlocking Opportunities for Young Apprentices report.

Delivering essential digital skills trainingWith under-19 apprenticeship starts decreasing by 41% since the Apprenticeship Levy came into effect, it’s clear that while the levy may have had certain benefits for businesses taking on apprentices, it has not necessarily created attractive opportunities for young learners. While apprenticeships are a fantastic training option for learners of any age and can support career changes or upskilling, a key goal since their original inception has been to provide a route into work for young people, something that Baltic Apprenticeships feels is now being lost.

“Apprenticeships are vital for companies and the apprentices themselves.” Julian Wiffen, Director of Data Science at Matillion, said. “You get an incredible range of diverse talent, from people who have taken all sorts of different life paths. Apprentices keep your whole team fresh, bringing new ideas and new thinking to challenge and innovate your organisation. They also provide junior members an opportunity to start learning, to mentor, and to lead. It’s a relatively low-risk way to identify your future leaders, and it frees up time to work on something exciting too.”

Working with City & Guilds to tackle apprenticeship challenges

Last year Baltic Apprenticeships engaged City & Guilds as its End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) and have since seen a rapid increase in the number of apprentices enrolling on their programmes, high pass rates and higher levels of retention. From the 719 EPA (End Point Assessment) results secured so far for FY23/24 apprentices have a pass rate of 95% and a higher achievement rate of 67%, improving on an already impressive pass rate of 85% and a higher achievement rate of 44% from the previous year.  

Delivering essential digital skills trainingThrough the expertise of City & Guilds specialist Technical Advisors and Partnership Managers who help with programme delivery and support as well as preparing for end-point assessment, City & Guilds now form a key part of Baltic Apprenticeships’ delivery.

"Baltic is dedicated to providing a high-quality service to its learners. From onboarding to EPA, the learner is at the heart of the entire apprenticeship journey.” Kristian Hudson, Head of Quality at Baltic Apprenticeships, said. “Being able to work with City & Guilds to continue this high-quality experience is extremely important to us. Since collaborating with City & Guilds, we have experienced nothing short of exceptional support and attention to detail. Their understanding, responsiveness, and personability to learners have made the partnership positive for everyone involved.

Offering both Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships for learners interested in marketing, software, IT and data analysis, Baltic Apprenticeships is using the support from City & Guilds to provide a training experience that sets learners up for success. 

Rebecca Hollamby of City & Guilds also emphasised the enduring importance of being involved in apprenticeship delivery. “Apprenticeships are an integral part of the City & Guilds offering and having the opportunity to support training providers like Baltic Apprenticeships who excel in what they do is something that supports our overall goal of changing learners’ lives through skills development.” 

Find out more about Baltic Apprenticeships here

Read our Securing Apprentice Success Guide for more insights into apprenticeship challenges and opportunities