It’s no secret that the software industry in Northern Ireland is thriving. When I began my career in software 30 years ago, it was a stand–alone sector – an industry in itself. Fast–forward three decades, software now underpins all industries and is the key enabler of our society.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the demand for new talent is high, at such a level now that it is outstripping supply.
“Last month, Instil recruited two apprentices. It is a new approach for us, having traditionally only employed graduates.”
We joined Workplus and were impressed with the standard of individuals applying. More than that, the candidates had a clear hunger for the role and a palpable enthusiasm for learning.
Colleagues in the industry will know how fast the sector is moving. So fast, in fact, that universities can’t keep up. University lecturers rarely work in the industry, and modules taught a couple of years ago are often outdated and irrelevant.
“It wasn’t too long ago that at least a 2:1 degree was required to begin a career in software. Those days are fading (fast!) and that degree mindset is starting to markedly shift.”
At Instil, we have been giving much thought to new talent and so find ourselves moving more towards blended learning. It feeds into creating a more diverse workforce and recognising talent early. Furthermore, from an entirely practical perspective, tracking back to schools helps to address the supply challenge. In many senses, the software industry is ripe for apprenticeships.
The mentoring model of leading and guiding is already there and we know it takes 3 – 5 years to build the craft.
Bringing young people – and indeed older individuals wishing to retrain – into employment earlier is part of the wider sustainability of the industry. We have fantastic people interested in the sector, ready to work and learn. Apprenticeships offer that consistency in learning and working, and give employers the opportunity to mould, shape and teach the craft to new talent.
“I have no doubt that apprenticeships will become a key part of addressing demand and, as we increase in confidence as an industry, the apprenticeship culture will grow all the more.”
For me, embracing and growing the apprenticeship culture feeds into benefitting for society in general. I was fascinated by the Netflix series Explained which included a Money episode on student/college debt in the USA. Americans now owe more in student loans than in auto loans or credit card debt.
“Student debt in the UK is also costing society.”
In England, it’s predicted 83% of graduates will not clear their student loan in full within the 30 years. Such statistics naturally lead us to ask the question of whether we are needlessly lumbering the next generation with debt when there is an alternative debt–free pathway, which gets people into work sooner and earning earlier.
Instil is early in its journey with apprenticeships but we are already seeing their value and place in addressing supply and securing talent, and we are looking forward to creating opportunities and enabling debt–free routes into this exciting industry.
Tara Simpson is Managing Director of Instil Software. Based in Belfast, it is a software engineering consultancy specialising in the creation of custom software and training to technology companies globally. Instil Software is part of Workplus.