Blazing a trail for apprenticeships - ICT

Using a computerC&K Careers apprentices Tim and Kae and their manager Steve ... 

... on what apprenticeships mean to them

Kae, ICT apprentice

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
I was having trouble finding work due to a lack of experience. I was referred to C&K on work experience and when the opportunity to stay on in a more permanent role as an apprentice occurred, I was happy to take it.

How did you hear about your apprenticeship?
I was working part-time at C&K on work experience. During this time one of the IT staff left the company and the apprentice at the time took over their role, leaving an opening for a junior apprentice in the IT team.

How easy/hard was it to get on your apprenticeship (what qualifications did you need, what was the selection process)?
I was applying for the apprenticeship through C&K, who had previous experience with the provider and, as such, the process was very easy. The only qualifications required were maths and English GCSEs and a proven interest/background in IT, in this case I had a very strong background as I had pursued software engineering to degree level.

How did you apply?
The training provider was contacted by my manager at C&K, who had met them before, and we had an initial meeting where myself, the training representative and my manager discussed the details of the apprenticeship. I then filled out the necessary forms to enrol.

What apprenticeship are you doing?
I am doing an apprenticeship as an Infrastructure Technician.

How do you get your training - is it in the workplace or do you go to college - if you go to college, is it block or day-release and where is it?
I go to the training provider’s local base for my training, this is usually for two to three days in a row, with a month or so in between sessions. There is also some work I do for the apprenticeship in the workplace.

What is it like working and studying at the same time?
Thanks to the way the apprenticeship is structured, I find it very easy. When training is happening, it’s separate from work and in short blocks, allowing me to focus on the training. The rest of the time I have ample time to complete assignments alongside my work which I can work on in my downtime due to the nature of the job (workload can vary unpredictably).

How has doing an apprenticeship changed you (if it has!)?
Doing this apprenticeship and my accompanying position at C&K, has given me a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of the IT industry as well as gain real experience in the workplace. I believe that this has helped me become more adept at managing priorities, as I have to balance my work and my apprenticeship assignments, as well as prioritising jobs at work.

What advice would you give to other young people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
My experience of apprenticeships is that they are a great opportunity to do qualifications while also gaining experience in the workplace, which I believe are both equally important in many industries these days. If you’re looking to go into a more hands on or competitive sector this is a great option.

What are you hoping to do at the end of your apprenticeship, for example, stay where you are/progress to another level/company?
When I complete my current apprenticeship, I intend to move on to the next level of the qualification.

What are your career plans?
I’m generally just interested in working in IT, in the long run I would like to move back toward working in the software area of IT.

Visit apprenticeships.gov.uk

Tim, ICT support & development technician apprentice

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
I’m a hands-on sort of learner, so an apprenticeship is an ideal way of learning for me. It means I can learn some valuable skills within the workplace, while also achieving professional certifications. It puts me in good standing for future career prospects further down the line.

How did you hear about your apprenticeship?
I applied to a training company who got in touch with me to offer me the position.

How easy/hard was it to get on your apprenticeship (what qualifications did you need, what was the selection process)?
It was relatively easy, I thought. As long as you’ve got your GCSEs (or better) and you’re aware of what the job’s asking of you, you’re rocking and rolling.
Of course, there were many more who didn’t even offer me an interview – so it’s swings and roundabouts!

How did you apply?
This was done through the training company, who had asked for a copy of my CV beforehand. They also made a short video where they ran through a few interview questions, both to help me prepare and to ship off to the company.

What apprenticeship are you doing?
Level 3 Infrastructure Technician, one of the many IT apprenticeships.

How do you get your training - is it in the workplace or do you go to college - if you go to college, is it block or day-release and where is it?
Every couple of months I head over to the training centre in Leeds, where I train for one of the qualifications included as part of my apprenticeship. The main ones are CompTIA A+ (entry-level computer certificate for PC computer service technician) and the three MTAs (Microsoft Technology Associate certificates).

What is it like working and studying at the same time?
It can be tricky at times to juggle both responsibilities at once – for example, trying to write up an assignment while also taking support calls – but if you can put up with that then it’s a great bit of experience, if nothing else.

How has doing an apprenticeship changed you (if it has!)?
I feel I’ve become a much more confident person through doing the apprenticeship. That’s partly just from doing the job but also from having the training and, with it, the opportunity to network with like-minded young people.

What advice would you give to other young people thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
Go for it. In today’s social climate it’s difficult for young people to even break into work to begin with, so apprenticeships are a great way to simply get your foot in the door. After that, well, you’ll be drowning in qualification, so do it, enjoy it, and make the most of it.

What are you hoping to do at the end of your apprenticeship, for example, stay where you are/progress to another level/company?
Hopefully I can move onto a Level 4 apprenticeship within the same company. The offer has already been floated, so as long as I pass this one, I’ll take it!

What are your career plans?
At this point, who knows? The field in which I’m working is changing so rapidly, especially now, that any jobs I could possibly plan for will have altered drastically – or may even be gone completely by the time I’m fully qualified. More than anything, it’s a case of keeping my finger on the pulse and seeing what happens. It’s an exciting time to be in IT, that’s for sure.

Fire it UpSteve, IT manager

How long have you been taking on apprentices? How many?
We have been taking on apprentices now for a number of years putting them through level 3 and level 4 qualifications, over the years we have probably had at least seven or eight whilst I have been here.

What sort of work do they do?
We start apprentices off with the basics, giving them the opportunity to get to know our systems and how everything is configured. They start off doing some of the basic tasks, building PCs and laptops and providing first line support to other staff, as they become more confident and competent they get more involved in technical aspects, such as administering our Office 365 tenant. Level 4 apprentices are involved in more technical aspects of the job, leading on developments.

What are the costs like?
The costs for C&K are subsidized through the apprenticeship levy.

What about the time involved?
There is some time involved in training the apprentice, certainly at level 3, once they are at level 4 they generally know our systems, so require minimal supervision. Apprentices also spend a number of weeks at the training provider, undertaking official certifications and exams as part of the theory element of their training.

How much training do they complete and how does this slot in to day to day work?
The scheme lasts for 18 months with the provider, as I have mentioned there are a number of training days held that the apprentice attends, usually followed by exams. Whilst in the workplace, apprentices need to complete and record off-the-job training, which must be at least 20% of the apprentices paid hours, this can sometimes be difficult to fit in due to the workloads in the team but is still a requirement, so effective time management is a key attribute.

What is the benefit of taking on apprentices as opposed to a member of staff?
Apprentices attend formal training and qualifications depending on the path they take. This makes the training cost-effective for SMEs through the apprenticeship levy. We also get to mould an apprentice into the type of person we need/want, so they are tailored to our business. Apprentices can also promote positive long-term development within the workplace.

What sort of roles and companies have your apprentices gone on to? How long have they stayed with C&K after finishing their apprenticeship?
The apprentices in the ICT team have successfully moved on to other organisations, progressing their career once they have achieved the level 4 qualification and gained essential hands on experience within the workplace.

Have you worked with ESIF's WorksBetter programme? If so could you mention how that went, what support you got/they get?
Yes, our current level 3 apprentice was recruited through the WorksBetter programme. Kae initially came to us doing two days a week work experience. A member of the team then left, which allowed the current level 3 apprentice to progress to level 4, so there was a vacancy for a new level 3, which Kae successfully applied for, so this was a positive outcome for the WorksBetter team and Kae.

Are you aware of any support or funding to help businesses get an apprentice?
Yes, the apprenticeship levy helps to fund the training element, there are also other initiatives, such as not having to pay National Insurance for apprentices below the age of 25.

Any advice to businesses who are considering taking on an apprentice?
I would encourage businesses to take on apprentices as it is a cost effective way of training up staff, which you can tailor to your business. It is also good to get some new youthful talent onboard within the organisation, which can often be a breath of fresh air.

 

Page updated January 2020

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