I’m honoured to be asked to be the first writer in this series of the 2015 IBM Apprentice blog and also delighted, as I view the IBM Apprentice programme as UK Foundation’s greatest success. As someone who was in at the start of the conception of the programme early in 2010, I look at where we are now and can honestly say that the programme’s success has been beyond our wildest dreams – and that’s on many levels.
So, going back to the beginning – we had some challenges in initially setting up the programme and we had no idea what to expect. It was not without risk. 18 year old apprentices deployed on client facing projects – would they be up to it?
5 years later and the answer is a categoric – YES!! ……..and that’s not just a few high fliers, oh no, that would be the 200+ apprentices we have now hired.
It’s been an amazing journey during which we have seen both our Apprentice programme and our apprentices win many national awards and gain eminence right into No 10 Downing Street. This needs to be put into perspective in what had gone before. Yes, IBM and UK Foundation had already won many awards for our graduate schemes but never had we seen such high profile focus and never have we had so many invitations to celebrate and share the success of one of our Early Professionals’ programmes.
For me personally, this has also brought amazing opportunities. I’ve been invited to the House of Commons, the House of Lords, No 10 Downing Street, City Hall and to numerous speaking engagements – all because of our Apprenticeship scheme. The demands are continuous and I’m delighted that they keep on coming. IBM is a leader in the government’s apprenticeship Trailblazer initiative and we are proud that even though our programme is so relatively recent in its inception, we are clearly seen as best of breed nationally.
Inevitably, we are asked how our apprentices compare with our graduates. Well, I’d prefer not to make a direct comparison. What I can say about our apprentices though, is that they clearly excel in areas where we also benchmark our graduates. So, our apprentices are in very high demand for deployment on client facing projects, they achieve distinctions on UK Foundation professional development courses which were traditionally run for graduates, and they are super stars when it comes to representing IBM externally. They have far exceeded any expectations we had when we started the programme.
So, what would I say to someone trying to choose between an Apprenticeship and University? I’d say, choose your Apprenticeship programme carefully and then GO FOR IT! No financial debt, a chance to get ahead in the workplace from an early age, and no barrier to your future career prospects. All our apprentices who started in 2010 and 2011 have moved into the business and gained promotion to the first IBM professional level. Our 2012 hires will follow them this year. That puts them all on equal footing with ex-graduates and other experienced professionals. From now on, all have equal opportunities to go wherever they wish to direct their future careers.