Cognizant, one of the world’s leading professional services companies, has partnered with QA, a leading provider of digital skills training, to develop a MSc level apprenticeship programme aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions within tech companies.

The announcement, which comes just after International Women’s Day, is part of a mission shared by both QA and Cognizant to actively tackle the UK’s gender skills gap. According to a recent Tech Nation report, 77% of tech director roles are filled by men. Apprenticeships such as those offered by this programme can play a significant role in boosting the number of women in such positions.

The new programme has been designed to develop wide-ranging technical excellence as well as executive leadership skills through a work-based learning program organised by QA. Learners will choose a specialist pathway to follow in areas including software engineering, data and analytics, cyber security, IT ops management, and DevOps. Each pathway will have a combination of research-led specialist modules, and professional practice modules.

The new 24-month MSc Digital and Technology Specialist Apprenticeship is being run with the support of Northumbria University and aims to accelerate women’s progression into leadership roles across Cognizant’s computing, IT, and digital technology divisions.

Cognizant helps leading organisations across a wide range of sectors in the UK and beyond to digitally transform their operations by implementing cutting-edge technologies such as generative AI so they can stay ahead in today’s fast-changing world, perform at their most competitive and efficient, and improve everyday life. As a result of Cognizant’s commitment to gender diversity, women now hold 38% of roles across the business, significantly above the industry average. The apprenticeship is aimed at further advancing this progress, especially at senior management level.

The program will include a series of sessions from women leaders at businesses including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Partner, Salesforce and ServiceNow. They will share insights on such topics as personal branding and online presence, emotional intelligence and leadership, negotiation and advocacy, and data-driven decision making among others – all key skills to develop leadership mindsets and skills.

Jo Bishenden, Managing Director for Apprenticeships at QA, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with Cognizant and Northumbria University to develop and provide a programme focused on nurturing more women in technology leadership roles. A gender gap stubbornly still exists in tech, particularly at a senior level, and the key to solving it is to empower women with all the tools and resources they need to become leaders.

“Apprenticeships are an incredibly valuable way to help to create a steady pipeline of diverse talent entering the tech industry. By actively recruiting and training women through apprenticeships, organisations will contribute to a more balanced workforce. With 90 percent of apprentices staying with the same employer after completing an apprenticeship, it also offers a potential route to overcoming the digital skills gap that so many businesses face.”

Rohit Gupta, Managing Director UK&I at Cognizant says, “The advancement of generative AI has already shown how quickly the world of work is changing as well as the potential the technology has to be an equaliser for society. To fully seize the opportunities it offers, it’s important to provide people with the right skills and to ensure a diverse workforce which is vital to responsibly implement and truly harness gen AI.

“At Cognizant we recognise the urgent need to close the women leadership gap, and we are committed to building up the next generation of women tech leaders through equitable growth opportunities such as this program. By providing new ways to upskill and better access to careers in tech for women, Cognizant and QA want to shape a more progressive and diverse future of the industry and bring a new generation of highly skilled individuals into the workforce.”

QA is one of the UK’s leading tech talent and training organisations. Specialists in technology, they provide a comprehensive suite of talent and training services helping individuals and companies to have success in the digital revolution. QA has worked with 96 of the current FTSE 100 and is accredited by all major technology vendors including Microsoft, AWS and Google Cloud. Last year QA helped train 439,000 professionals in technical and digital skills.

Northumbria University, the University Partner and degree awarding body for the program, is a research-rich, business-focused university, with a global reputation for academic excellence. The Computer and Information Sciences Department at the University has an international track record in cyber security, digital forensics, artificial intelligence, IoT and Big Data and information sciences, ensuring learning is contemporary, research-informed and practically focused.

To be eligible to study for this program, typically candidates will have received a 2:2 (second class) honours degree in an appropriate computing, technology or engineering discipline, although non-standard entry will be considered where the applicant has the judged potential to benefit from the programme. There is no cost to the learner as a degree apprentice. Degree Apprenticeships are fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy through the learner’s employer for eligible businesses. Candidates can apply here.