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Apprenticeships mean tech firm is programmed to succeed

Forrit Technology’s Business Operations Director Alexandra Walker believes the organisation is programmed to succeed – thanks to apprenticeships.

Formed in 2014, Forrit, based near Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, have invested in apprenticeships for the past six years and one fifth of their current workforce are apprentices. 

The company has twelve Graduate Apprentices supporting a range of areas of the business, working across Software Development, Cyber Security, IT Management for Business and Business Management.  

The business looks to apprenticeships to both upskill existing employees and recruit new talent, with four of its IT and Telecommunications Modern Apprentices progressing on to Graduate Apprenticeship roles. 

As a result, Forrit has been shortlisted as a finalist for SME Employer of the Year at the upcoming Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, delivered by Skills Development Scotland, which are scheduled to take place virtually on 4 March.  

Alexandra says Forrit has solved a recruitment dilemma by cultivating their homegrown talent via apprenticeships. 

Alexandra said: “We started our first apprentice way back in 2015, which was a year after we were founded, so we’ve really built apprenticeships into our business. 

“Developing talent, particularly long term is something that is really important to us because it helps to close the skills gap.  

“Within the technology sector, there’s often a bit of a skills gap, so apprenticeships enable us to develop that talent ourselves. 

“We can take people on before university and get them to do all the industry-accredited qualifications alongside their degree.  

“Depending on which pathway they are doing – after two years or four years – they will then have their degree in software development or cyber security and all their industry accreditation.  

“It means we’ve got some homegrown talent coming out the other end which is fantastic. It helps us in terms of recruitment – it is quite a competitive marketplace given that skills shortage.  

“It also means that we can shape those people to fit our culture and be exactly what we need.” 

Alexandra believes that making that commitment to apprenticeships is like planting seeds and the rewards are long-term staff members, who develop a strong affinity with the business. 

She added: “We’ve got an extremely high level of staff retention.  

“We really do invest in our staff. Training is really important to our business for all of our staff, whether they are an apprentice or not. We’ve also just started a share scheme for all of our staff, including our apprentices. When you invest in people, you get the return with loyalty.” 

Forrit has already started the process to enlist the next cycle of apprentices into the company and Alexandra says the apprenticeship model, combining earning and learning, is the perfect mix for some young people. 

She said: “When we get to the summer, we will look at introducing another intake of apprentices. We have done that every summer since the company was started. 

“We will go out to the colleges and look at the HND students. We will see if any of them want to come and join us. 

“We feel really passionately about the fact that the industry needs to wake up and discover that apprenticeships aren’t just a second choice – an apprenticeship should also be a first choice.  

“Everybody learns in different ways and that mix of learning in the workplace alongside academic study suits some people perfectly.  

“Two of our apprentices had previously started university and then dropped out in their first year – the full-time learning model just wasn’t for them. They then joined us as apprentices, started a university course and were outperforming the full-time students within the first year.” 

Alexandra says other businesses should follow Forrit’s lead and reap the rewards from investing in a strong apprenticeship programme. 

She said: “I think a lot of businesses complain about a lack of candidates and a skills gap in the tech space, but not many of them do anything about it. 

“Businesses can do something about skills gaps by taking on apprentices and developing talent. We’re a small company, but a fifth of our workforce are apprentices, so if we can do it then large organisations can invest in it too.” 

Forrit is shortlisted for SME Employer of the Year at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, delivered by Skills Development Scotland, which will take place virtually on 4 March.

Source: Skills Development Scotland

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