Bridging the Digital Skills Gap: Are computing degree apprenticeships the answer?

Ella Taylor-Smith, Sally Smith, Khristin Fabian, Tessa Berg, Debbie Meharg, Alison Varey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

15 Citations (Scopus)
539 Downloads (Pure)


This paper describes a study investigating whether apprenticeship computing degrees in Scotland are attracting additional entrants who will become IT professionals and fill a skills need. Government policy reports, from around the world, set out plans to address computing skills shortages by introducing additional education or training programmes [23]. In the UK, this is put forward as a key goal of the new higher level apprenticeships, including Graduate Apprenticeships in Scotland and Degree Apprenticeships in the rest of the UK. These are promoted as bridging the skills gap by involving employers in curriculum design and widening access to people who would not want to study towards a traditional degree, because of the financial burden or time out of employment. New graduate apprentices at three Scottish universities were encouraged to complete a short survey, asking about their route into the degree, including their aspirations, motivations, and previous experience. Most respondents had begun an IT career before they started the apprenticeship and were upskilling and gaining an internationally recognised qualification. A third could be considered new to IT, including those coming straight from school and those moving into IT mid-career. The apprentices’ primary motivation was to gain skills. They chose the apprenticeship, rather than a traditional degree, because of the integration of work experience, followed by financial reasons: graduate apprentices earn salaries and can avoid student debt. These apprenticeships create a new route to a computing degree-level qualification. We consider their potential in addressing digital skills shortages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInnovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-6895-7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019


  • Graduate apprenticeship
  • work-based learning
  • degree apprenticeship
  • digital skills
  • computer science


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