Leading professional services company Cognizant, in collaboration with digital skills training provider QA, has launched a Master’s level apprenticeship programme aimed at increasing the representation of women in tech in leadership roles.

The initiative, announced shortly after International Women’s Day, reflects a joint commitment by QA and Cognizant to address the gender skills gap in the UK’s technology industry.

The 24-month MSc Digital and Technology Specialist Apprenticeship, developed with the support of Northumbria University, focuses on developing both technical excellence and executive leadership skills. Learners can choose specialized pathways in areas such as software engineering, data and analytics, cyber security, IT ops management, and DevOps. The programme combines research-led specialist modules with professional practice modules, offering a comprehensive learning experience.

Addressing the Gender Skills Gap

The apprenticeship aims to accelerate women’s progression into leadership roles within Cognizant’s computing, IT, and digital technology divisions. Despite the challenges posed by a reported gender skills gap, Cognizant has shown commitment to gender diversity, with women currently holding 38% of roles across the business, surpassing industry averages.

To enrich the learning experience, the programme includes sessions led by senior female figures from prominent technology companies, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Partner, Salesforce, and ServiceNow. These sessions will cover crucial topics such as personal branding, emotional intelligence, negotiation, and data-driven decision-making, providing learners with insights into key leadership skills.

Empowering Women in Tech

Jo Bishenden, Managing Director for Apprenticeships at QA, emphasised the importance of empowering women in tech leadership roles. She highlighted apprenticeships as a valuable tool to create a diverse talent pipeline and contribute to a more balanced workforce. With high retention rates, apprenticeships offer a practical solution to overcoming the digital skills gap faced by many businesses.

Rohit Gupta, Managing Director UK&I at Cognizant, acknowledged the transformative impact of generative AI on the future of work. He stressed the need for diverse skills and a commitment to closing the gender leadership gap. The apprenticeship programme, designed to offer equitable growth opportunities, reflects Cognizant’s dedication to nurturing the next generation of women tech leaders.

Key Collaborators

QA, a leading tech talent and training organisation, has played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of the apprenticeship programme. With a track record of working with major technology vendors and training a significant number of professionals, QA continues to contribute to the UK’s technology landscape.

Northumbria University, serving as the University Partner and degree awarding body, brings its expertise in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and information sciences to ensure the programme’s contemporary and research-informed approach.

Candidates eligible for the programme typically hold a 2:2 honours degree in a relevant computing, technology, or engineering discipline. The degree apprenticeship is fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, making it a cost-free educational opportunity for learners from eligible businesses.