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Digital Agency Bridges Skills Gap With A Pioneering Apprenticeship Sheme


Sift, one of the largest digital agencies in Bristol, have launched a web development apprenticeship scheme to tackle a severe shortage of candidates for technical roles. Having successfully recruited three bright young apprentices with the help of Creative Skillset, Sift aim to teach them coding from scratch and employ them as full-time web developers at the end of their course.

Georgina Dalby, HR Director at Sift explains: “We were finding it increasingly difficult to find Drupal talent in the South West to help our business grow. It became clear this is an industry-wide issue, so we started to look at alternate solutions and identified apprenticeships as the best way forward. The team at Creative Skillset and Cirencester College helped us select the level 4 Interactive Development and Design framework, supported our recruitment efforts and guided us through the whole process.  We are very excited to be the first company in the South West with apprentices on this framework, and it’s very rewarding for us to see the apprentices making such great progress. We hope to run further apprentice intakes in the next few years.”

Kevin, Lindsay and Mark spend Wednesdays at college learning general principles and the basics of coding, while their mentors at Sift teach them the specific tools, languages and methods used in-house by the agency for the rest of the week.

At 17, Kevin is the youngest apprentice on the programme. He says: “Graduates have been taught how to learn and to code in a certain way. It’s a certain academic take, almost theoretical. In apprenticeships, it’s different. You are taught how to code in the way the company needs you to work.  You’re essentially a lump of clay that the company can shape in the way they need you to work, which is better for the company and better for the apprentice.”

Andy Freedman Cirencester College's creative apprenticeship consultant says,

'We have worked very closely with managers at Sift to devise a programme of training which provides the skills the apprentices need to fulfill their roles now and in the future. This is an innovative approach to meeting skills needs and we are delighted to be working with Sift  on this new apprenticeship framework. We have assembled a team of trainers who are current industry practitioners, delivering 'college' training sessions in the workplace, based around live projects.'

Ben Heald, CEO of Sift, is enthusiastic about the whole process: “I’ve wanted to trial something like this for a few years now and I’m hoping to extend it next year. Creative Skillset have been invaluable in helping us to shape the course and find our apprentices. We’re taking the long term view that this will make a profound impact on our business. Having more young people working for Sift also brings wider benefits to the whole company.”

The UK’s digital economy is booming, with an estimated 750,000 new positions opening up by 2017. As the demand for skilled digital workers grows, companies looking at long term solutions like investing in apprenticeship schemes are likely to come out on top.


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