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Growing digital talent from within

RDT’s DNA is to innovate and tirelessly find ways of working that give the company a competitive edge. And when it comes to investing in the stars of the future, there's never been a more important time to get it right. Competition is fierce for people with digital skills and the pool of available talent is small. As a result, the 150-strong company has taken the approach of building an internal talent pipeline. It makes good use of apprenticeships, with many employees taking their first steps into digital roles through an Open University (OU) degree apprenticeship.

Not only is this an effective way of addressing RDT’s recruitment challenges, it also enables the company to really tailor the learning to individual and organisational needs.

By hiring people on the apprenticeship programme, it allows us to structure their learning along with their growth within the business.

So what they’re learning at work feeds into what they’re learning at university, and what they’re learning on the programme benefits us as well.

Fiona Mason
Human Resources Director, RDT

The OU’s Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship has huge benefits for both employers and employees. Several RDT employees are currently developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need for their roles and some graduated from the programme and taken on mentoring roles.

The challenge of recruiting to digital roles

Jane Dickinson, Digital Skills Lead at the OU, says employers everywhere are suffering from a shortage of digital skills, a problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent rapid adoption of digital. In response to this need, the OU has increased its provision of digital learning, with a wide variety of courses on offer.

The Open University has several ways to support businesses to develop their digital skills, so everything from short informal courses on our free OpenLearn platform, through to full degree programmes.

Over the last few years we’ve launched degree apprenticeships, microcredentials and also Skills Bootcamps, which provide a pathway into a new digital job.

Jane Dickinson
Digital Skills Lead, The Open University

An alternative to traditional university education

One such apprentice is Phoebe Chapman. Phoebe wanted to pursue a career in IT, but she didn’t want to go down the traditional university route. Instead, she looked specifically for a degree apprenticeship role, which was when she came across RDT. Phoebe really enjoys the practical, work-based nature of her apprenticeship. “Obviously, the work experience you get whilst doing the apprenticeship is vital, especially given how competitive jobs are these days. You can apply that learning from the apprenticeship to your job.”

Phoebe likes how the OU structures the learning, the flexibility and the level of tutor support available to her. She is also impressed by the depth and breadth of the programme. “I’m specialising in the software engineering module aspect, but on top of that it also covers how IT projects work, business organisation, web technologies and how systems are developed. So it gives a very good general background and allows me to specialise.”

When Phoebe completes her apprenticeship, she would like to become a senior engineer. She would also like to mentor other apprentices, particularly female apprentices. Finding and nurturing female talent in technology and insurance is also high on RDT’s agenda.

Making an impact

Andy Foster is an Senior Release Engineer at RDT. He also acts as a mentor to the apprentices and says he has really enjoyed watching Phoebe gain in confidence and competence as she has progressed through the programme. She started under the guidance of an experienced team member but soon took on more responsibility in her role, becoming a subject matter expert in her particular field. “It’s just so brilliant to see someone starting off – basically as a blank sheet – and growing into someone who is so well respected in their team, someone who has such ability and is someone that people will go to for advice,” says Andy.

Fiona agrees with Andy that it’s amazing to watch the apprentices grow and develop. “I think it’s one of the things that gives me the most pleasure in my job,” she says. “Seeing people achieving what they want to achieve, growing and developing and moving on within the organisation and taking on new roles.”

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