Ever since CGI established its presence in Scotland, the Canadian global IT and business consulting services company has prided itself in supporting the growth of the Scottish digital economy by investing in a skilled workforce.

This ambition has been realised in its consistent ability to innovate when it comes to finding the next generation of coders, cyber security experts and systems engineers.

At the heart of CGI’s commitment to communities, partnerships and STEM is its Graduate Apprenticeships Programme. CGI works in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier University to attract young people with a passion for technology and a hunger to learn.

Students study towards a BSc Honours – in Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian or IT Management for Business at Napier – while also spending time to develop their career on real-life projects at the company, which has offices in both cities, and with a paid starting salary of £19,000.

Currently CGI has 13 graduate apprentices in Scotland, seven of them hired since September 2018. Such a focus on the talent of tomorrow shows the embryonic nature of CGI’s growth in Scotland – the establishment of a generation of young indigenous talent for CGI, as well as a growing highly-skilled Scottish workforce that helps builds Scotland’s reputation for digital excellence.

Maria Whittingham knows first-hand the benefits of the apprenticeship scheme as she completed her Sponsored Degree Apprenticeship with CGI in 2017. She is now a Student Recruitment Specialist at the company.

She says: “Our apprentices are the key to the future of the business in Scotland. Apprenticeships provide us with the ability to bring the best young talent into our workforce, and our programmes are tailored and targeted at tech-talented people who are looking for roles in areas such as software development and coding.

“Through our students, we are seeing a massive positive impact on the whole CGI workforce. Not only do apprentices enhance their own skills and gain real-time experience at the front line of a specialist IT business like CGI, they help drive the company forward by providing innovative ideas and a new perspective to their teams and the wider business.”

Maria says CGI has enjoyed a high retention level of apprentices, with all going into full-time employment in the company after completing their honours degrees.

She said: “We work closely with our training providers to make sure our apprentices are learning skills that they can apply practically to their work with CGI.

“But we have also put into place an early careers support structure which is tied into continuous development opportunities for our apprentices. The result is they look forward to the structured training, hands-on learning and support and encouragement that’s there to help them get their tech careers off to a strong start.

“And of course we also find our apprentices enjoy the benefits of a permanent, full-time employment contract.

“We would encourage any company to consider this avenue of recruitment. Apprentices help drive us forward as a company by providing innovative ideas. They are the future of IT, and we want their future to be with us at CGI.”

One example of the success of this graduate apprenticeship scheme is Chloe Gallacher. Chloe started her career by joining CGI as an apprentice software developer and studying at Glasgow Caledonian University. After achieving her BSc Honours, she is now studying for an MSc in Cyber Security, and has been nominated for the final of Apprentice of the Year.

She said: “The traditional path of a university degree followed by a job wasn’t sitting well for me. I had seen the opportunity of an apprenticeship with CGI, and the idea of earning while I learned, as well as getting workplace experience while studying, really appealed.

“Being at university one day a week and at work the other four, I was able to see how my education fitted into work.”

Chloe also works as an ambassador for CGI to help bring more young women into the apprenticeship scheme. She said: “I go out to schools and talk to girls who are interested in tech but are unsure of the correct path to take. I think this sort of thing is vital in getting more women into tech, and was definitely missing when I was at school so I am really pleased to be making a difference.”

Kirsty Ramsay, Vice President Consulting Delivery at CGI, said encouraging more young people, and specifically young women, into tech is a key mission for the company.

She said: “We have several other projects in the pipeline in Scotland – and we are also looking wider into Northern Ireland – which aim to encourage more young people in the area to consider a career in technology.

“This is vital not just for CGI but also for Scotland. Many leaders in the private and public sector I’ve talked to have focused on the mass exodus at graduation time. Graduates still go down south or abroad, so we need to create opportunities where people can start their careers here. With the workforce that we have, I want to make sure that their jobs are interesting and relevant.

“So it’s vital that, while the pandemic has affected employment in certain areas for today’s youth, we continue to create plenty of opportunities in technology and IT right here in Scotland. We want to do all we can to help them experience the positive benefits of a career in tech.”