PwC UK apprenticeships

Case study
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A tech talent programme that's a win-win for employers and apprentices

Set to graduate in June 2022, the first cohort of apprentices in the jointly-developed PwC degree apprenticeship programme are already cashing in on benefits to their learning and career development.

Launched in 2018, the programme is delivered by the University in partnership with the global professional services firm PwC. Throughout the four-year programme, apprentices earn a BSc in Computer Science while building practical skills through work placements with the organisation.

Final year apprentice Lauren Cooper said: “The degree apprenticeship programme is a life-changing opportunity that has really set me up for my future.” 

When I graduate in June, I’ll come out with loads of valuable experience, financial independence, and will be ready to hit the ground running in a tech role – it's been a great way to get a step ahead in my future career.

Lauren Cooper, final year apprentice

“It also really opened my eyes to the possibilities to explore within computer science. I didn’t appreciate how broad the field was, but through my placements I’ve learned how businesses use tech to solve challenges in creative ways. I didn’t really know much about site reliability engineering before, but now it’s what I’d like to do after university.”

Putting knowledge into practice

Placements are designed to put the knowledge gained through university modules into practice in the workplace, enabling them to develop their skills while still having a rich university experience.

Lauren said: “For one of my projects I did lots of data engineering to understand what makes people productive at work, building pipelines to get insights about productivity and happiness for our team management platform. On another project, I simulated offices across the UK, modelling a population of people to help stop the spread of COVID. It was really exciting to see how the outcomes of my work influenced PwC’s decisions about ways of working throughout the pandemic.”

In addition to helping shape her future career, the programme has also been an invaluable platform for her as a woman in tech, says Lauren.

About a third of the women in my cohort at PwC are women, which is much higher than the industry average.

Lauren Cooper, finale year apprentice

“I found PwC’s culture to be very supportive – they really want to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM and create opportunities and networks to nurture you and develop your skills.”

Delivering business impact

Though in its early stages, the programme is also delivering noticeable benefits to teams across PwC.

Cathy Baxter, Head of Talent Engagement at PwC, said: “We started working with Leeds on the programme six years ago and really wanted it to be a win-win for everyone involved.”

The programme is an opportunity for us to build an early talent pipeline of technologists coming into PwC while also levelling the playing field and expanding what tech talent looks like.

Cathy Baxter, Head of Talent Engagement at PwC

“What’s been amazing to see from the apprentices is the innovative mindset they bring to PwC. Once you’ve been in the business a while, you get used to the way we do things and the processes that are already in place. The apprentices have a real appetite to learn. They bring a sense of curiosity, they’re not afraid to ask questions, and develop unique solutions they can really run with. No ideas are off limits and that constant desire to learn and apply their university knowledge is incredible.”

Extending a 20-year collaboration

Leeds was a clear choice as a partner for the programme from the beginning, explains Cathy.

“We have a strong relationship with Leeds and have been collaborating for 20 years. The University has an outstanding Computer Science School with a high quality of teaching and we were keen to base a technology hub in the north, so this was really the perfect fit."

Though the first cohort of apprentices complete the programme in June, that doesn’t mean their journey is over at PwC. Provided they achieve a 2:1 in their degree, apprentices can continue their careers with the organisation.