Apprenticeship Schemes: It’s Time to up the Ante!


Over the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing from several Microsoft Partners with regards to their experience of the Microsoft Partner Apprenticeship Programme; and whilst the underlying principal behind the supporting the concept is great, I’m not sure the mechanics and vision of it can sustain a long-term programme.

One of the biggest things we’ve observed is the geographical inconsistency when it comes to talent, time, and what subjects other than technology are really ‘sticking’. Some Partners have loved their apprentice enough even to pull them out of the programme to avoid the administration time needed, whilst others are scratching their heads over whether it was right to participate in.

It’s a concern also to us that much of the apprenticeship scheme appears to be developing the individual’s technical abilities rather than ensuring a practical balance with developing their focus on business (i.e. how they fit into the bigger picture). What’s interesting is that the fault potentially lies at the feet of those adopting the apprentices, particularly as some are simply too small to dedicate enough time to successfully integrate them into their businesses. But, it still should be the concern and priority of those delivering the training to ensure that each and every apprentice contributes in a way that benefits everyone involved.

In the past year, we’ve been working with the National Skills Academy for IT to encourage more common sense and not just in the budding apprentices. We also believe that many of the training providers out there have little or no experience of what it takes to run an IT business who are their candidate’s potential employers.

In March, the IT Skills Academy told us that they have been focusing particular attention on:

  • Supporting the learning and development for IT professionals by identifying and promoting ‘best of breed’ qualifications and high quality training providers which are valued by the sector. We are implementing an Academy approval process for 300 such qualifications and a number of leading providers.
  • Working with employers and IT professionals, we are defining detailed requirements for training standards in key areas of skills shortages, such as business analysis, software testing and security.
  • Helping employers to offer Apprenticeships with a new programme that aggregates demand across small companies and puts in place high quality training to support the Apprentices in their new jobs. This is particularly valuable to small companies that have not previously offered Apprenticeships and we are supporting 150 employers and 175 apprentices through this new approach.

If we’re ever going to help boost our industry in a way that promotes talent, experience, and initiative, it going to take a big rethink as to how it should be approached. These activities were identified in March but we’re keen to understand from those involved in the programme just how well they have been met in your experience. These are people’s livelihoods being affected and whilst employers are keen to bring on young talent, they aren’t going to do it without considering the true ROI and long-term benefits of such as decision.

What’s your experience of the Apprenticeship programmes in your areas? What works? What doesn’t? And what are you looking for from these organisations to help take you to the next level? We’d love to hear from you either by email or using the comments below so that we can help create better traction for such a practical and great concept such as this. We want to engage further with these academies to help educate them more about what it takes to run a technology business and ensure that we don’t miss out on harnessing great talent.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow the team on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

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