Professional services company PwC has extended its technology degree apprenticeship to Queen’s University Belfast.

Queen’s Belfast joins PwC’s existing partnership with the universities of Birmingham and Leeds, reinforcing the firm’s commitment to developing talent to meet the UK’s growing demand for technology expertise.

Starting in September 2018, the innovative programme will give 100 students per year a traditional university experience and degree in computer science or software engineering, combined with practical work-based technology projects at PwC, tailored course content, great job prospects and a salary from day one.

PwC is one of the UK’s largest graduate employers and is designing the four-year course in partnership with the universities.

“For the UK to prosper post-Brexit we need to create a thriving and world-class technology industry right across the country, combining innovation with human insight and business understanding,” said Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC.

“To meet this challenge we need to think differently about how and where we develop skills, and how businesses and the education sector work together.

“We have designed our technology degree apprenticeship to be truly open to all, so that everyone has the chance to participate in the high-skilled and high-paid jobs of the future.”

The technology degree apprenticeship has been created to help plug the UK’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s gender balance.

PwC research reveals that over two thirds (67 per cent) of UK CEOs find it difficult to recruit people with digital skills.

Recruiting women with tech skills is particularly challenging, according to PwC’s Women in Tech research, which reveals that gender gap in technology starts at school and gets worse at every stage of females' lives.

Only 3 per cent of females surveyed say technology is their first-choice career option.

Paul Terrington, PwC’s head of regions and Northern Ireland chairman, said: "Creating the right environment for technological innovation to flourish right across the country will be central to rebalancing the UK economy.

"With our technology degree apprenticeship available in Birmingham, Leeds, and now in Belfast, we’re dispelling the myth that all tech talent needs to be trained and employed in London.

"Currently, we’re recruiting six-in-ten of our PwC graduates outside London and this technology degree programme will further expand much-needed technology skills and experience in the UK regions."