With fewer university places available for this summer’s school leavers, apprenticeship is looking like an attractive option. Vanessa Gough, recruitment manager with IBM, spills the beans on what the global computer giant is seeking from candidates for its brand new apprenticeship programme.
Q: How many apprentices will IBM hire this autumn?
A: We will be taking on 20 apprentices. This IBM apprenticeship scheme has been developed in collaboration with government agency, e-skills, and is currently only available in the UK.
Q: What kind of roles will they be hired for - same as graduates, or different?
A: They'll perform technical roles in the application management part of IBM Global Business Services. Compared to graduates, our apprentices will be performing more hands-on, technical roles and they will have a lower salary band initially. However, once they’ve completed their training, there will be nothing to stop them making their own way. IBM offers many opportunities for up-skilling and cross-skilling and employees are encouraged to educate themselves throughout their careers with IBM.
Q: How will a good apprentice stand out from the crowd?
A: The entry criterion is eight GCSEs, including maths and English, and two A-levels of A-C grades. But in a fast-changing environment, we need to ensure that our employees can adapt and thrive and so we look for qualities outside these academic qualifications. We look for creative problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration skills. We look for young people who are adaptable, good team players and good at communicating. They should also display high personal drive.
Q: What does a good application need to include?
A: Writing an application to display these characteristics can be difficult if you think only within academic or work-related examples. However, you can demonstrate these characteristics in many different contexts. For example, have you been involved in any sporting activities or a member of a club? Perhaps you organised a team, arranging who will play, the fixtures, the transportation. Have you ever had to take steps to overcome a particular difficulty or setback? When you think like this, suddenly you'll probably find you have many more examples of your competencies than you first thought.
Q: How long is the apprenticeship?
A: The apprenticeship takes two years and will include classroom, online and on-the-job training. Their qualifications will be tested along the way by internal and external verifiers. Upon completion after two years they will be at the Advanced Apprenticeship level, which is a formal, government-recognised certificate, equivalent to two A-level passes.
Q: Is there any opportunity to specialise?
A: We’re looking to hire apprentices into our IT specialist profession. IT specialists develop proof-of-concepts, design, develop, build, test and implement systems to solve our clients' business and IT problems. As an IT specialist, an apprentice will be a hands-on professional and will develop an in-depth understanding of IBM products, offerings and services. They may also find themselves working alongside our sales teams, providing technical project knowledge and guidance to support the work that they do with our clients.
Q: Will IBM take fewer graduates as a result of its new apprenticeship scheme?
A: No. IBM continues to take on 100-200 graduates every year. The marketplace is constantly changing and we review our recruitment programmes regularly to match these. Here we saw there was an opportunity to expand our portfolio of graduate and student schemes. The apprenticeship scheme puts IBM and apprentices in a win-win situation.
It is a way for IBM to attract young talent and a way for young people, who decide not to go to university at the time they finish their A-levels, to join a vibrant and forward-thinking organisation, which will help them progress and develop themselves for the duration of their employment with IBM.
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