Our apprenticeship strategy has been developed over the last five years to a point that now 80% of the Managed Services team are apprentices, and we have a hugely effective and successful programme in place. Our apprentices are recruited to start on a Level 3 course, and we rotate them across 4 teams, with 10 weeks in each team but maintaining the same buddy throughout for consistency and support:
• Service desk, this is very customer focused, and supports us with the progression of the apprentices’ customer service skills.
• Incident management, this is separated into 3 workloads which all apprentices rotate across again. This team are fixing incidents, it is a quick hit role with instant recognition and confidence boosting by resolving incidents and learning solutions.
• Core services, the apprentices concentrate on a project in this team, and they are very much focused on the detail.
• Service Delivery Team, supporting customers and relationship and contract management.
The rotation helps us to identify where the apprentice excels most, each team requires different mindsets and skill sets. We find that different people respond and progress better in different situations, meaning they naturally migrate to one team in particular and understand where they see their career progressing. This structure also means within a year all apprentices have core skills of all areas and have developed to do project work, which is an integral part of their career in the IT sector.
The Microsoft qualifications that the apprentices complete add a huge amount of value and knowledge to the team. The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exams give them a foundation to build on, and risual education’s Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT) delivers these early in the course meaning they gain technical skills from the outset so we can then start to talk to them in technical language. This understanding means we are able to involve them with the core team quite quickly, and they have the foundation to apply logic and theory too, so if they don’t know the answer they know the basics to then go away and check, taking pressure off the core team.
It has been great to watch their development as individuals, the structure of the apprenticeship means they do develop the softer skills I need in the team as well as the technical quals- no one wants a consultant who can’t talk to customers! I love that our MCT, Adam, who delivers the technical training, was an apprentice himself and still works with the team, so it means so much more to the apprentice that he understands their path and they aspire to achieve as many qualifications as he has.
In terms of starting steps, let risual support you with structuring the interview process as we have some great advice. We invite the applicants in in groups, and do lots of activities including ice breakers as a team, with our team leads supporting and interviewing so they are all involved in the process. This means when you do come to recruit they are all familiar from the interview day, so you don’t lose time on them getting to know each other. They are also already familiar with the team leads and they find it easier and more comfortable to ask questions, which eases the induction period.
And my top tip – keep them engaged, they have such an appetite for learning starting as an apprentice. Progress them through the apprenticeship levels and encourage them to take exams, they will rise to every challenge if you continue to stretch them and bring in great skills to your company.
By Amanda Sharp, Head of risual Managed Services