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Cisco is looking to help the channel attract the next generation of talent and ease the skills gap with its partner apprentice programme.
The pilot programme will see an intake of 14 students work with four partners and the vendor over a three-year degree apprenticeship programme, with a view to giving them chances to get experience across the various elements of the industry.
If that pilot goes smoothly, the plan is to roll out the full programme in October and take the number of students up to 30.
“Cisco is a partner-first organisation, but it’s not just about doing business with our partners, it’s about creating a value exchange in our ecosystem,” said Angela Whitty, managing director, UKI partner organisation at Cisco. “There are always the challenges around skills and the skills gap we’re all struggling from, so if there’s something we can do to help to feed that skills gap, then obviously we’re really keen to do it.”
The vendor has been running its own apprenticeship programme for almost a decade and has seen recruits come in and add value to the business and staying on to become staffers.
“We are going to take a group of young people who are employed by our partners, but we’ll go through the same training as our apprentices,” said Whitty. “A big chunk of that is funded by us via our apprentice levy.”
Helen Douglas, director communications & apprenticeships at Cisco, said the coronavirus pandemic had underlined the need to have a pipeline of digital-ready young people to join the workforce and it was also keen to work with channel partners that would not necessarily have the infrastructure to support apprentices.
“How could we work together?” she said. “What we’ve done is we’ve been able to really utilise £1m of our levy for our partners through the pilot and through the first cohort. The plan is that they don’t just get our levy, but get our expertise and our experience that we have built up over nine years.”
- Cisco has found it has a 93% retention rate of those going through its apprenticeship programme and 84% still in the business where they did their apprenticeship.
- The vendor is also proud of its 49% ratio of female apprentices, 42% BAME and 33% neurodiverse.
Cisco will support the cohort of partner apprentices through Webex and events to make them feel part of a community and is establishing a bank of mentors, including former apprentices, that they can reach out to.
“I think the big ambition is that we have an ecosystem of talent that we can cross-pollinate and we can leverage,” said Douglas, pointing out that skilling up the next generation would also benefit the industry as a whole.
“We have to do this for the greater good of our young people’s digital skills and the country,” she said. “If we are going to compete with our European neighbours and international competitors, then we have to have best-in-class digital skills.”
Whitty said more partners were recognising the value of working with apprentices. “More organisations are seeing the benefits of taking on early-in-career talent and keeping them and training them,” she said.
“By the time a typical student would have left university, we would have had them in the business for three years, so they have their degree but they have also gained real hands-on experience.”
Whitty said any partners interested in getting involved could contact the vendor and sign up before the main wave comes on board later this year.