The popularity of digital apprenticeships has hit new highs, partly fuelled by the surging profile of AI in business, daily life and political decision-making, according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and UCAS.

More learners are opting for digital apprenticeships, with new starts up by 10%, according to the latest UK Government figures. New BCS’ figures published today show a 27% year-on-year increase of its final assessments of IT apprenticeships - that includes encouraging first figures for completions of the new AI Data Specialist apprenticeship.

More people expressing interest through UCAS

These positive trends are mirrored by new analysis from UCAS. Exactly half of those who applied to study computing through the UCAS Hub in 2023 also expressed an interest in an apprenticeship – up from 46.8% in 2022. It follows a pattern of increased demand for places on computing undergraduate courses at universities, with 17,525 placed UK 18-year-olds this year – a rise of 5.3% on 2022.

In National Apprenticeship Week (5 – 11 Feb), BCS and UCAS encourage the government and employers to increase investment in apprenticeship programmes to bridge digital skills shortages and provide opportunities for all

Apprenticeships and the AI factor

Annette Allmark, Director of Learning and Development at BCS, said: “The shortage of tech skills costs the UK economy and its workers billions yearly. Digital apprenticeships are an effective way of boosting the tech talent pipeline, especially for underrepresented groups. We know more people are applying for and completing digital apprenticeships, and we believe the popularity of emerging technologies like AI is fuelling that increase.

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“The next government must ensure that digital apprenticeships are supported as they are a valuable pathway into a fantastic career in technology – plus digital skills are necessary in all other occupations and sectors.”

Sander Kristel, UCAS Chief Operating Officer, said: “We know that exactly half of the students who applied for computing courses last year were interested in apprenticeships, but more roles are needed as demand grows among young students making their post-16 choices. UCAS is committed to supporting students’ aspirations by making them aware of all the options available to them, with our new apprenticeship service, the most relevant apprenticeship opportunities for them alongside higher education courses.

“As part of our ambitions, we have a range of tools and services that employers can use, not only to support more young people into digital apprenticeships as well as those looking to upskill, but also to help them reach this massive talent pool and create a sustainable pipeline for their business.”