Apprenticeships are a hot topic in the UK right now, especially with the national election just a few days away. Whether it’s pledging funds or increasing the number of apprenticeships on offer, the ultimate goal is to make more readily available on-the-job training and to help the younger generation get into work.
As the father of two children, the oldest being 19, this topic grabs my attention. So, I was interested to hear what Ben Wilson, a customer service professional with more than 10 years’ service management experience, had to say during his breakout session, “Service Desk Skills For The Future – Apprenticeships,” at the recent SDI 2015 Annual Conference.
Ben explained the approach the company he works for took to establish an apprenticeship program to meet the skills need within the unified communications sector.
What did the company gain from this experience? Besides helping to improve some of the company’s process and business competencies, Ben pointed out that apprenticeship programs (which now run across many departments) are now seen as key to the company’s ongoing success.
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Back in my time in the dark ages of TELEX, before the fax, and long before the invention of the PC, when paper tape was the medium of business communication, I worked as an apprentice for a small IT company while going to college. There I was given the most menial of tasks to complete as part of my apprenticeship. Boy have things changed! Modern apprentice schemes have a more cohesive approach and many of these programs include the teaching of soft skills, a key, but often overlooked, skill set these days.
A quick search online has brought up a number of service desk apprenticeship opportunities which is great! One of our first level support analyst on the EMEA service desk, Luke James, completed an apprenticeship (with a shared business service provider) several years ago, which lead to a full-time position that lasted for more than three years. Luke would have liked his apprenticeship to be “more challenging” (perhaps things haven’t changed) but acknowledges that it was a great experience that set him up for success in his professional career.
Marouane Mraihi, a technical business consultant within Cherwell’s EMEA PSO team, is also a ‘retired’ apprentice who completed multiple internships and one graduate program with a very large, global tech company. His time as an apprentice/intern included designing a website with only a text editor and training colleagues on Microsoft Windows® software. These opportunities also introduced Marouane to IT security, license management, computer networking and HTML, before he even started to formally study IT. Marouane says this experience was highly relevant and helped him to develop into the consultant he is today. His advice to any organisation looking to take on apprentices is to give these people the tools, time, and guidance to learn and to provide opportunities to do the same work as full-time staff.
Does your service desk team, or IT team, take on apprentices or interns? How has this benefited your organisation, and what tips would you provide others looking to develop an effective apprenticeship program?