The various routes to getting women in tech

There are many ways to enter the technology sector but one that is very popular is through apprenticeship. “Apprenticeships are work-based learning, in which the person spend three or four days learning at work and one or two studying for a relevant qualification,” says Tom Laws, National Careers Service Advisor at the National Careers Service. “It is a good way to learn as you are getting experience while studying and you are also earning a wage.”

IT is one of the fastest growing areas and increasingly women are going into IT through the apprenticeship route: “It’s set to grow faster still, because everyone uses it to some extent, whatever their profession,” Tom continues. “Even an apprenticeship that is not specifically in the tech industry may well have some tech angle to it.” He cites IT support, operating systems, network engineer and network administration as just some of the many areas in IT in which there are apprenticeships.

 

Apprenticeships preferred by employers

Employers favour them too, because they have been able to train employees in the fields they want and they are confident they are getting someone who will be an asset.  There are many websites that will provide details: www.apprenticeships.org.uk is the largest umbrella organisation, while specialist tech websites include www.e-skills.com and www.bigambition.co.uk.

Of course, once actually in the profession it is important to keep your skills up to date and to prepare for future career steps.  Helen Wollaston is director of Wise, which promotes female talent in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). “Further training can involve leadership skills and confidence presentational skills,” she says. “Women need these skills, tools and strategies to compete with men as they progress up the career path as they’ll be in a minority.  Professional support groups for women can also be very helpful.”

The other problem that women have and men do not is coming back after an extended break for maternity leave. “We think there is a great deal of value in returners courses,” says Helen.

WISE runs a number of these programmes including Skills 4 Career Development Programme for Women, a four day course spread over three months, with the next in October, hosted by Siemens in Manchester. Established in 2006, and working with over 60 companies and 3000 participants, these are aimed at medium to senior management for people looking to move up to the next level.

The other problem that women have and men do not is coming back after an extended break for maternity leave. “We think there is a great deal of value in returners courses,” says Helen. “We also advise that while women are on leave they stay in touch: stay on the intranet, read white papers, network, use webinars and go to talks.” And companies must also be cognisant: it is easy for a woman to feel intimidated if she is the only woman on a team. A good team leader will look out for talent and encourage it.