John Lewis CIO Paul Coby launches technology apprenticeship

John Lewis IT director Paul Coby said the employee-owned retailer's new Technology Apprenticeship scheme will help the organisation tackle the "IT skills gap in young people".

John Lewis, which includes supermarket Waitrose, has launched an 18-month programme, with apprentices joining one of the IT teams to be assigned to certain projects, while also completing a number of Java Programming courses and on-going work-based training.

"The technology apprenticeship has long been an ambition of mine since I joined the business in early 2011," Coby said. Coby sits on the board of directors for e-skills, an industry group that promotes IT training.

"We're seeing a real skills gap in young people where IT and technology are concerned, and as a keen investor in talent we've recognised that this needs to be addressed as we strive to become an omni-channel retailer.

"We recognise the importance of technological innovation and the apprentices we take on will be crucial in helping us to achieve our goal."

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Apprentices will also spend two weeks working on the shop floor at one of the retailer's London shops to develop an understanding of the business, and will then be based at the John Lewis head office in the capital.

There are only five places available for the 2013-14 programme, which begins in September, applications open on May 20, Coby expects this to change.

"Looking ahead, we hope to be able to increase the intake for the following year's scheme," he said.

Apprentices will automatically become John Lewis Partners and have access to benefits and reward programmes the partnership offers.