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Hiring a digital apprentice?


Category: Degree apprenticeships

13 May 2022

Faith receives a certificate from David Smart at Softwerx

A degree apprentice plugs vital skills gaps and drives growth in digital companies. In this blog, we look at how employers can recruit and retain top tech talent with Anglia Ruskin University.

The digital skills gap. Four little words, one big challenge for businesses.

The figures are food for thought. Microsoft says the UK tech industry needs 3 million more skilled people in the next 3 years – a £48 billion opportunity for switched-on businesses.

So how can you convert a stumbling block to a springboard?

For market-leading Cambridge-based cybersecurity firm Softwerx, award-winning apprentices like Faith Akinbo are catalysts for change.

Digital degree apprenticeships – developed specifically for your growth roadmap – might be the best investment your firm can make in its future too.

And there’s no better time to get started than this Learning at Work week.

How do apprenticeships help businesses access digital skills?

Take Softwerx as an excellent example. Degree apprentices have boosted their digital skills with ARU, and their soft skills with apprenticeship advocate organisation Form the Future.

For Softwerx apprentice mentor and Managing Director David Smart, degree apprenticeships fit his business philosophy perfectly. A BT apprentice in his youth, he recognises the positive impact of apprenticeships on individual careers and business growth.

And degree apprenticeships aren’t one-size-fits-all. They’re tailored to your unique growth plan.

For example, digital marketing degree apprentices help Softwerx connect with customers and penetrate new markets with valuable skills like:

  • Performance marketing that monitors, tracks and tweaks campaigns
  • Targeted branding to differentiate, connect with customers and build loyalty
  • Research that keeps Softwerx at the cutting edge of Cold Security
  • Content marketing to showcase expertise and drive sales – via social media, email and more
  • Thought leadership that enhances brand reputation and authority through insider insights
  • Partnership building that enhances the business network and diversifies its offering.

From digital marketers to technology solutions professionals and data scientists, ARU has degree apprenticeships designed to deliver the skills your business needs.

‘Apprenticeships are a key to unlocking growth; growth in young people, businesses and the nation’

David Smart, Managing Director, Softwerx

Award-winning digital apprentices

Reaping the rewards of backing degree apprentices is nothing new for Softwerx. But after an impressive trophy haul from the Cambridgeshire Apprenticeship awards 2022, confidence in the programme is sky-high.

Co-hosted by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, the first Cambridgeshire Apprenticeship Awards were held during National Apprenticeship Week last March.

And the standout performer in a strong field this year was Faith Akinbo, a Softwerx Microsoft Research Analyst Marketing Apprentice, who won the Personal Achievement and Apprentice of the Year awards. Form the Future CEO Anne Bailey believes this digital double-whammy ably demonstrates the power of tailored apprenticeships, saying:

‘It’s been so rewarding to work with Softwerx to create new apprenticeship opportunities, and wonderful to see Faith win these awards. Results like these show the power of the apprenticeship pathway to create opportunities for young people and plug the gaps that so many businesses are struggling to fill.’

Fellow Softwerx Microsoft Research Analyst/ARU degree apprentice Phoebe Ward was also highly commended for the Team Working Award, with their manager at Softwerx Patrick Leckie saying:

‘Faith and Phoebe have blown the doors off with what they’ve already achieved at Softwerx as trailblazers of our Digital marketing degree apprenticeship in just a few years, so watch this space.’

For Softwerx, ARU and all advocates of learning at work, these are exciting times.

‘Results like these show the power of the apprenticeship pathway to create opportunities for young people and plug the gaps that so many businesses are struggling to fill.’

Anne Bailey, Form the Future CEO

Are degree apprenticeships worth it for employees?

Definitely. In general terms, degree apprenticeships allow apprentices to study a genuine, industry-focused degree for free and earn a salary while they learn.

But tailored apprenticeships also arm ambitious digital marketers like Faith and Phoebe with practical, specialist skills which provide a firm foundation for dynamic digital careers:

  • Now in the second year of her BSc Honours Digital Marketing degree with ARU, Faith’s Softwerx apprenticeship is already empowering her with niche design and creative communications skills. She works with the whole Adobe Creative Suite and develops brand blogs, newsletters and graphics.
  • Phoebe is in the second year of the same programme, but focuses on connecting with customers, colleagues and other stakeholders through events, website content and networking. She champions apprenticeships at local colleges and has even produced a video with great tips for anyone who wants to follow in her footsteps.

And professional fulfilment is balanced with fun. For instance, Softwerx graduate apprentice Harley Butcher swapped memory sticks for glow sticks during a three month sabbatical in Ibiza.

‘I have been given the opportunity to work on a range of interesting projects, which are extremely rewarding and have had a lasting impact on the company and for myself from a career progression perspective. From re-launching the brand, tone and voice and website, to lead generation and responsibility for managing a not-for-profit outreach project’

Faith Akinbo, Softwerx Degree Apprentice

How do I take on a degree apprentice?

Taking on a degree apprentice is surprisingly simple and cost-effective – whether you need data-driven digital marketers like Faith and Phoebe, or digital and tech solutions professionals to fill software engineering and cybersecurity roles.

From Cambridge to Peterborough and beyond, over 500 regional and national employers have partnered with ARU to develop high-calibre apprentices that drive their businesses forward.

And our dedicated team helps you every step of the way – from helping you get the most value from the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy to recruiting the right candidates.

Degree apprenticeships – did you know?

A degree apprentice is an investment. Get a swift sign off from stakeholders with these FAQs.

• How does a degree apprenticeship actually work?

Your degree apprentice is an employee who studies part-time with ARU. They can be an existing team member you want to upskill, or a new recruit at any age and stage. They earn a salary while they learn the nuts and bolts of your business. And you get a qualified graduate with high-level digital skills tailored to your needs.

• How much will a degree apprenticeship cost my business?

Thanks to the Government Apprenticeship Levy, not much – and perhaps nothing at all. If large businesses (payroll of £3m plus) pay a 0.5% levy into your Digital Account. When that’s reclaimed for digital apprenticeships, the Government applies a 10% top-up. The Government also funds 95% of costs for smaller firms that don’t pay the levy, and 100% in some cases.

• What kind of digital apprenticeships does ARU offer?

ARU has digital degree apprenticeships for digital marketers, bioinformatics specialists, digital and tech solutions professionals, data scientists, and data analysts. Because we’re one of the UK’s top 10% providers for skills and enterprise, your apprentice – and business – benefits from industry-leading expertise from day one.

What’s next?

Ready for an apprentice like Faith to futureproof your business? Now’s a great time to start.

According to BT research, systems integration is the main challenge for SMEs in the next 5 years, technical architecture troubles major corporate 1000+ entities most, while cybersecurity tops the list for corporate 250+ firms.

For ambitious firms, degree apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity. Grab it and grow.

Get started with digital apprenticeships at ARU Cambridge and ARU Peterborough by:


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.