• 7th Mar 2017  / 
  • by Shaun McKay

National Apprenticeship Week: Investing in the Next Generation

Young IT professionals teaching apprentices

As a member of Generation X, apprenticeships were a very respected career choice for many when I left school. Over time, they lost their credibility and whilst apprenticeships are once again becoming credible, I worry they are not getting the recognition they deserve from either candidates or employers.

Our first apprentice joined us 3 years ago. As an SME, we had long discussions before we committed to employing an apprentice. Would our team have time to dedicate towards effective training and development? When we decided that we could, we looked to hire an apprentice.

Investing in new talent

We employed a 17-year-old who had started A levels and not enjoyed the experience and was questioning the university path, that students with some intelligence feel expected to follow.  At interview the candidate was committed and articulate and subsequently delivered huge value to our business in his first year.  Our team in return spent time teaching him, and the more he learnt and delivered to the team, the more time they invested.  We employed him at the end of his first year of apprenticeship and two years later he took the next step in his career and moved on.

On his departure we recruited again, this time we employed a 19-year-old who impressed me at interview as he was once again articulate and had taken a delivery job whilst he looked for the right apprenticeship.  His temporary job was a major box ticked. As a business we can teach IT skills but work ethic and desire to work for your future are in your DNA.

We have recently employed another apprentice – another bright young man who sadly experienced the worst of the apprenticeship scheme. He worked for a business that employed him only for a year as a cheap resource with no intention of developing his career and looking to terminate his contract as soon as they could.

Fortunately for us, this experience didn’t totally put him off. I am delighted to say he has joined our team and has started his career in IT with a supportive team who see his potential and are keen to help him unlock it as soon as possible.

“I am passionate about these young people –  they are our future.”

We train our apprentices in a mixtures of on the job training and 9 weeks of dedicated technical training, at the end of which they gain a Microsoft qualification. Our apprentices act as part of our first line service desk support, so they learn their skills in real-world situations and fill a role that is vital to the success of our support desk service.

I am passionate about these young people –  they are our future. Skilled labour in the service sector is key to driving our economy.  To be successful, apprenticeships require commitment from apprentices, employers and the government to invest in their training and raise the profile of this very rewarding career choice.

For any business to thrive and survive, adapting to changing environments is essential. IT evolves faster than most industries and bringing on new talent is critical. Apprenticeships will certainly be part of that development programme for us.

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