My name is Neil Stringer. I’m one of risual Education’s assessors, and I’m here to tell you why you should consider an apprenticeship with risual as the first or next step in your career in IT, based on my own experiences or a L3 and L4 apprenticeship in the sector.

Doing an apprenticeship was not high on my list of possibilities until relatively late into my second year of Sixth Form. For a long time, it had been my goal to go to university and pursue a career in game development. I had got as far submitting UCAS applications and considering the logistics of moving away when a three-year apprenticeship scheme with the IT provider to a big-six energy firm first registered and, following a successful application and assessment day, turned those plans on their head.

This rapid turnabout meant that initial expectations at the outset were limited. Having spent a great deal of time wondering how I would balance studying with living and working there was little time left to consider how I’d find adjusting to a professional environment, or what I’d do with all the money I wasn’t spending on supermarket noodles and Student’s Union nights.

This lack of expectations going in would prove to be of great benefit as I quickly moved through the business, both in terms of the organisation chart and the country. Placements with a major development project in Solihull, telecommunications team in Oldbury, WAN migration project in Swindon, and various service contact and back office teams in Kingswinford made up the three years that I spent earning my L3 and L4 framework apprenticeships.

Except for the placement in Solihull, all were a far cry from what I’d envisioned prior; even then, the project was to develop a gas and power demand forecasting system, not the next triple-A FPS. With the benefit of five years of hindsight since finishing my apprenticeship I know that choosing this route was the single best decision I’ve made in driving my career forward.

Learning about game engines, 3D modelling, and all the other associated topics was replaced by understanding and applying industry-standard business practices, stakeholder management, and communication skills, all while still working in highly technical roles. This varied work experience prepared me for work after the apprenticeship, meaning at 21 I possessed the kind of skills and experience that my peers who went straight to university were only just beginning to develop.

Not only that, but the experience and qualifications gained through those three years meant that I could still pursue my original goal of getting a degree, only this way it took 18-months to turn my apprenticeship’s qualifications into a bachelors degree with honours, and I came away with less than half the debts I would have had I not taken the apprenticeship.

 

Apprenticeships Now

Since completing my own apprenticeship there has been a revolution in their delivery. The framework format I knew, composed only of knowledge and competence certificates, has been replaced by the new standards which adds a synoptic project, employer reference, and interview to the mix to broaden how apprentices’ abilities are measured, and the simple pass or fail grading replaced by fail, pass, merit, or distinction.

Far from being a case of tinkering round the edges, this is a root and branch rethink, done with the help of major employers in the IT sector, making the way an IT apprentice can develop and showcase their skills far greater than before. The long-term commitment of creating a portfolio, achieving college certificates, and MTAs, coupled with the technical challenge of a synoptic project, and an interview that uses knowledge and communication skills to full-effect, represents a far more holistic method of assessment. Moreover, the shift from a catch-all qualification where modules are selected to suit the job to separate qualifications that are focused on specific areas within IT greatly enhances the level of specific knowledge and detail an apprentice can expect from their qualification.

 

Why risual Education?

All this brings me back to risual Education and why, if you’re now convinced an apprenticeship is the right route for you, you should choose us to pursue it. risual Education is part of risual, a company founded on the values of trust, openness, and honesty. It came about when directors Rich Proud and Alun Rogers sought to share the IT apprenticeship scheme that they had developed in-house to grow their own skilled workforce and, in turn, fill the sector’s growing skills gap. risual are a keen investor in apprentices to build a skilled workforce; 78% of risual’s Service Operations are current or former apprentices, and 33% of current risual employees have completed an IT apprenticeship.

risual and risual Education take the knowledge and understanding of what skills are needed and give them to their apprentices using a combination of in-house expertise, industry-experienced and qualified delivery staff, and Microsoft qualifications, all delivered with their partner colleges and through their Microsoft Showcase classrooms across the UK. risual Education delivers qualifications across the sector, with L3 and L4 qualifications ranging from Infrastructure Technician to Software Developer, Data Analyst, Digital Marketer, and IT Technical Salesperson. Partnered with employers big and small, risual Education’s apprentices have gone on to work in major employers in all sectors, including King’s College London, Sony, and Admiral, as well as building and growing their business with the talent of their own apprentices.

Whether you’re an employer or apprentice, start your journey with risual Education today by getting in touch.