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Channel backing apprenticeships

It is National Apprenticeship Week and the channel is doing its bit to arm the next generation with the skills and opportunities to make a difference in the IT world

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Against the backdrop of National Apprenticeship Week the channel has shown its strong support for helping the next generation start out their careers in the IT world.

UKFast was first off the blocks announcing plans to create 100 fresh apprenticeship roles at the end of last week as it continues to play a part in trying to reduce the skills crisis.

The Manchester-based firm has a long track record bringing the next generation on board through apprenticeships with 80 going through its scheme in the last three years and 18% of its current 350 strong workforce having coming through that route.

Others have also stepped forward to reveal the efforts they are making to reach out to young people with Westcon-Comstor planning to recruit 10 people to join its 2019 apprenticeship programme.

“This is the third time we have done an apprenticeship intake,” said Antony Byford, managing director, Westcon UK. “Over the years we’ve had more than 30 apprentices, and about half remain in the company as they establish successful careers. The apprenticeship scheme provides a valuable pipeline of emerging talent.”

Those who have been through the distributor's programme have shared their experiences with many commenting on the appeal of getting a chance to learn the ropes in a supportive atmosphere.

“I joined Westcon as an apprentice in preference to going to university. Right from the start, all apprentices were treated as co-workers, given responsibility and entrusted to pull their weight," said Megan Currie, who works as a project co-ordinator and went through the apprentice programme in 2016.

“We all had lots of questions, but there were excellent levels of support. It’s a very relaxed, team-based culture, but equally very positive and clear on what we needed to achieve," she added.

Sam Hermon, who is now a project co-ordinator for the firm's Global Deployment Solutions division, said that it had been a positive experience that combined several learning approaches: “You’re not completely out of the classroom. As well as training on the job, we spent two days a month with an approved training provider in Wokingham. There were timed assignments to be completed as well as further coursework modules in order to achieve a Level 4 Diploma.”

Rufus Grig, CTO at Maintel, said that more firms should get involved with apprenticeships because it was a way of arming the next wave of talent with the skills needed to help the industry.

“The UK is currently suffering from a real skills shortage in the tech sector. Business leaders ought to be doing more to encourage students to take up qualifications and careers in tech that will help plug the current tech skills gap. We need to start training our tech leaders of the future and invest in the digital world," he said.

“For students, it’s important to remember that leaving the school gates does not mark the end of their learning experience or limit their options. It’s the beginning of a new journey. There are also a multitude of opportunities to train in a technology-based subject – be it at University or via an apprenticeship scheme," he added.

Leah Goddard, managed service engineer at Maintel, joined the firm in 2013 as an apprentice on the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals “Telecommunications Engineer” programme.

"This gave me the opportunity to gain experience with every team within the operations function, both desk-based, lab-based and on-site, as well as being combined with regular periods of residential education with other apprentices from around the UK. I completed my apprenticeship in 2015 and was the runner up in the national awards for “SME Apprentice of the Year” in the same year," she said.

"The apprenticeship scheme was instrumental to my career, and has afforded me with many opportunities since, and allowed me to showcase my skills, as well as help others showcase theirs," she added.

Steven Medley, who is an apprentice engineer at Maintel, is viewing the opportunity to get involved with networking as a chance to set himself up for a future career in the industry.

"Maintel’s apprenticeship scheme has been a great way for me to further my interest in this field and become qualified within the telecoms industry. It mixes work with a Cisco College course and an NVQ. This means that at the end of my apprenticeship, I will be Cisco certified," he said.

“I’m really enjoying the scheme. I get to travel the country, visit different customer sites and get involved in new products on a regular basis. It’s safe to say I’m never bored and I’m always learning," he added.

Busting some myths

As part of National Apprenticeship Week UKFast has been holding an event to discuss the topic. The firm found that a few myths are out there that the industry needs to bust to encourage more people to step forward and enter into apprenticeship.

All of the following statements are untrue:

Apprenticeships are only available in manual industries

Apprenticeships are an option for those who perform worse academically

Apprentices won’t earn enough to live on

You can only start an apprenticeship at 16

There is no support outside of the programme

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