IBM has launched an apprenticeship scheme for school leavers.

Although the IT giant has recruited graduates and offered student placements in the past, this is the first time IBM has offered a two-year programme for apprentices.

The programme will train apprentices to become IT specialists, who are responsible for developing proof of concepts, designing, developing, building, testing and implementing systems to solve IBM’s clients’ business and IT problems.

IBM said there will be opportunities for a career at IBM at the end of the scheme, in its Global Business Services division and in its Application Management functions.

Parviz Daneshvar, professional development manager at IBM, said: “IBM sees apprenticeships as an excellent way of developing the skills of our future workforce.”

IBM developed the scheme with the support of sector skills council e-skills. It also aims to give apprentices the opportunity to work towards achieving the Advanced Apprenticeship for IT Professionals qualification, which consists of OCR Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence and OCR Level 3 Certificate in ICT Systems and Principles.

Karen Price, chief executive of e-skills UK, said: “IT apprenticeships are a great way of going straight from school into a fast-paced and rewarding sector with excellent career prospects.”

IBM is offering 20 places on its apprenticeship scheme, based across the UK, including in Farnborough, Greenock in Scotland, Leeds, Manchester, London and Hursley.

The deadline for applications is 12 September, details of which can be accessed here.

E-skills recently launched a new placement scheme for students in Scotland, with support from BT, Oracle and Cisco.

Meanwhile, City University's head of computing, Dr Andrew Tuson, also recently urged companies to help promote IT careers by offering work experience at all levels, following a Royal Society report which revealed that fewer children were taking IT courses at school.