Alex Burghart claims that numbers have already begun to rise following reported 20% drop in 2022
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The minister responsible Whitehall’s core digital agencies has vowed that government is committed to reversing a sharp decline last year in technology-focused apprentices – and has already begun to do so.
A report published earlier this year by the National Audit Office revealed that, between October 2021 and December 2022, departments’ collective tally of apprenticeships in digital, data and technology roles fell from 800 to 637. This represents a reduction of 20%.
Alex Burghart, a Cabinet Office minister with oversight of the Government Digital Service and Central Digital and Data Office, said that this figure has already been to increase again – rising by 6.2% in recent months. While each department has domain over its deployment of apprentices, government as whole intends to ensure that such growth is sustained, he added.
“Individual departments are ultimately responsible for their own resourcing decisions and will have their own rationale for specific choices made,” the minister said. “Additionally, apprenticeship headcounts will fluctuate over time linked to factors like the procurement of suppliers and the cohort based nature of apprenticeship recruitment.”
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Burghart added: “Apprentices are a core part of our thriving digital community, as are graduates and interns, and we are committed to ensuring that the trend in reduction of apprentices is reversed… The Central Digital and Data Office are currently working with departments and commercial teams to address some of the barriers to fully utilising apprentice levy’s in government, including through increasing supplier choice.”
The minister – whose comments were made in response to a written parliamentary question – said that the recent rise is DDaT apprenticeships is accompanied by an increase in the past year in the overall number of technologists employed across government.
“Government is committed to strengthening digital and technology specialist skills and has increased the number of recorded specialists by 10% since the establishment [in June 2022] of the Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 roadmap for digital and data,” he said.
CDDO is responsible for overseeing the delivery of the three-year digital plan and, in a recent interview with PublicTechnology, the organisation’s chief executive Megan Lee Devlin revealed that the number of DDaT professionals in the civil service now stands at 27,000.
A key role of the Cabinet Office-based unit is also helping to grow tech expertise at all levels of government, the CDDO chief added.
“That is about building digital skills and capabilities, both within the 27,000 digital makers in government, and beyond the function – to the half a million civil servants, to ensure they have a great foundational level of understanding of how to use digital and data – particularly in a world of generative AI and all of the interesting trends we’ve seen recently,” Lee Devlin said. “That includes making sure our cadre of senior civil servants have the right understanding of the digital environment, and the skills and expertise to be able to lead great digital teams effectively.”