Monthly Archives: June 2015

Making the choice – Ryan McManus

I’m not going to argue about what is good and bad about apprenticeships as you can find loads of articles about that. In this post I’m going to mention the things that I considered/ did when trying to make that somewhat daunting and scary decision between University and Higher Apprenticeships. I will share my views and some of my friend’s views on their rationale to making the big decision. Although I’m in an apprenticeship I’m going to tell you tips that will help you make the best decision for whatever career path you choose to take.

I found that you are pressured into making that big decision while still in sixth form/college. Schools are supposed to support you helping you make that decision. So if you’re still at college or sixth form start off by having discussions with your teachers about your initial ideas as they can probably give you some pretty good advice to give you that first stepping stone. They will also help you look for what you are after if you know what you want and point you in the right direction.

Secondly, think about what your ambition is (doesn’t matter if you don’t have one…yet). You might have always wanted to be a paramedic from the days you sat down watching Casualty eating your dinner or always wanted to follow your parent’s trade. If so what is the best path to achieve that? If you know what you want to do then you were one step ahead of me at that time!

If you don’t have a clue what you want to do, start looking at general university/apprenticeships courses and trending jobs. This will give you a feel for what jobs are actually out there and in reach. There are opportunities out there that you will not have heard of, so do some research and note down the ones you like the sound of and look into them in more detail.

Speak to your friends as they might have already made the choice and be doing something that interests you too. Also speak to your parents as they might have some useful advice e.g. how to get a job in their company, any schemes etc.

Go on the internet and search for career fairs. These offer a variety of opportunities (College, University, Apprenticeships). These fairs give you the chance to get advice from people who really know their stuff.

If you are in a part time job and you like the company you are working for, why not ask if they offer any apprenticeship opportunities to learn more and give you an insight into their trade.

What subjects have you taken? Think about what subjects you have taken at school and the skills you have acquired and see if there are any Apprenticeships/ Uni courses that build on these qualities. If you have taken relevant courses it may help with the application process.

Consider your UCAS points –If you don’t have the points for the subject you want to do then this could influence where you go, what you do and the career path you choose. But if you really want to do something but don’t have the points then it’s not the end of the world, you can do night classes or re take a year etc. Don’t let a number put you off!

If an apprenticeship offers exactly the same as Uni then why pay more? Some apprenticeships do offer foundation degrees. Look at the cheapest option.

Do you have the money to pay out? Have your parents saved for you? Do you want to be in debt? Weigh up an Apprenticeship where you get paid to learn with a University where you pay them to learn.

Do you actually know what you want to do? If you know what you want to do and Uni is the best/ only path, then take a look at university but personally I do not see the point in going to university if you don’t understand what job you are aiming for at the end of it. Plan your career out and don’t just use it as another 3 years to delay your career decision. (I nearly made that mistake)

The way I found my career path is by simply just typing “apprenticeships in the uk” in google. Use filters in the search by adding in the county/city/ industry you’re interested in.

Location is something you may want to consider when applying/looking for a course. Some apprenticeships/Universities specialise in certain things in certain areas, so limiting yourself to a city may be the reason it’s not offering what you want.

We have all heard about the Uni life drinking to the early hours of the morning and the cheap Thursday night drinks. Well it’s not actually true…. It could be the most expensive party you ever go to with all the University tuition fees. Yes it’s a bonus of Uni but I would advise to not let this be an influencing factor in your decision.

Some people follow their friends or girlfriends/boyfriend to make a decision. Bear in mind that it’s your career and you can always make new friends. Don’t direct your career based on an easy choice!

You have time, but not that much time. – Don’t rush into a decision but equally don’t take years sitting at home eating cornflakes searching for endless opportunities that you won’t follow up. Select the options you want to do and be fully committed to the application.

The right company but not the right apprenticeship? If you know what a company has to offer and like the industry they are in, don’t be put off by going into an apprenticeship that is not exactly the position/role you want. Think of it as a platform and a first step to achieving what you want.

Other tips:

Sign up to colleges or sites. There are lots of colleges/companies that will actively search for opportunities that suit you. All you have to do is type your details in and they will contact you if anything crops up.

Integrated colleges – A lot of colleges now take you on as an apprentice as they are linked up with an employer. So just because you might have to do another college course, it does not mean that you’re not going to be in an apprenticeship.


CAMSS: The Apprentice Viewpoint – Josh White

Kicking off our next blog series, we have Josh White explaining CAMSS – the 5 technology ‘pillars’ that IBM has identified as the key growth areas for the industry and which shape the strategic direction of IBM world, R&D, acquisitions and day-to-day conversation with colleagues and clients. CAMSS – Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social and Security are the vital areas of technological growth, crucial to both the Enterprise (IBM’s client base) and the end customer/consumer (Social in particular is expected to change the way businesses are run, interact with their customers and develop to meet the real time needs and wants of the world).

But given the key role that these technology pillars play, it is easy for them to be misunderstood, misrepresented or simply underestimated. Fear not though, as our IBM Apprentices will, over the course of the next series, explore these areas, explain the concepts in their own words and give you an insight into how these key areas of business development and strategy shape and define their day to day work. Enjoy ….


CAMSS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social and Security) has changed the way we interact with each other and the way businesses interact with their customers. IBM is investing vast amounts of money in these areas in order to differentiate itself from other technology companies and to create opportunities for its clients and business partners.

I am quite lucky to be on an account where the projects touch on every aspect of the CAMSS agenda one way or another. The main areas of CAMSS I have been involved with are Mobile and Analytics. I am currently a Business Analyst on a project that is building an iPad application to support a web based reporting tool that our client went live with late last year. The app will enable users to input data which will appear on a report you can view using the web app. I am also working on a project which analyses data of electricity companies against government measures. The system, once complete, will determine whether these companies meet the government’s criteria or not.

I am a big rugby fan and since joining IBM I have been interested in the IBM Try Tracker which uses analytics to provide fans with real-time insights into the game, including information about individual performance by players and predictions on the performance the rugby teams. The way it works is that IBM’s Predictive Analytics software will analyse historic and current rugby data provided by Opta, the world’s leading sports data provider, to provide valuable in-game stats. It gives viewers access to insights that will heighten their understanding of what to watch for in each game and explain what needs to be done to increase the likelihood of a teams win against a specific opponent.

As well as analytics the Try Tracker can be used on Mobile devices and tablets. Just watching the game is not enough any more for a lot of sports fans. They like to know how many tackles their favourite player made during the game, how many meters they ran, how many turnovers their team got or kick accuracy.

One feature of the IBM Try Tracker that links in well with my current project is its predictive analytical features. The Try Tracker will predict what 3 key things a team will have to do during the match in order to win. For example if each team achieves the below 3 objectives over the course of a match, they will win:

England Keys
•    Win more than 14 turnovers
•    Get more than 5 linebreaks
•    Achieve a successful goal kick percentage of more than 74%
Scotland Keys
•    Achieve a tackle success rate greater than 95%
•    Win more than 85% of own lineouts thrown
•    Have more than 6 attempts at goal

On my current project the system we are working on will use data which has been entered into a database to produce an outcome, and produce a different outcome if the data is changed. The end user will see the input data and the output data. In between this, the system is analysing a lot of data with multiple possible outcomes and producing the correct end result.

There are also a lot of exciting things that IBM is doing with Wimbledon which involves every aspect of CAMSS so please go and have a look at this as it is very interesting:

Happy reading, Josh.

Google-ing your future – Lewis Davies

Google the word “University” now click on Images…. Here’s what I found.



















Google the word “Apprenticeships”…..Again here’s what I found











My point is they’re both stereotypes and neither is a truly accurate representation of what they involve. In the long run both of these people (although one of them is animated) can achieve the same thing if they choose to. Although these are extreme examples the point remains that it’s your ambition and drive that will make you succeed.

As an apprentice it would be easy for me to sit here and exaggerate the benefits of apprenticeships and say that universities are a waste of time. They’re not…. However if you’re really unsure on what you want to do or where your end goal is, perhaps an apprenticeship is a better choice if nothing else just to avoid the fees.

I’d like to break down some real world Pro’s and Con’s for each with an extremely selfish context as at the end of the day what’s the point in doing either if they’re not going to benefit you and you alone and not just from the perspective of your career but life as a whole.

Apprenticeships Uni
Pro’s Con’s Pro’s Con’s
You’ll be getting paid.

Experience makes you attractive to employers, most apprentices are kept on or can easily find new jobs.

You’ll receive Industry recognised qualifications

You’ll miss fresher’s week unless you take it off work…But holiday is precious!

You won’t get the “Halls” experience (But then being hungover in a grimy flat somewhere every week doesn’t sound that much fun)

9-5 grind….You’ll get used to it trust me.

Improve your employability.

Learn more in your area of study.

Good social life.

There are a number of things you cannot do on an apprenticeship in. Become a doctor for example.

Extracurricular stuff like sports teams etc.

Debt! – I know you don’t start paying back until your earning enough but just knowing it’s there cannot be a great feeling… that and eating smart price beans every night.

Struggle to find employment after all the hard work.


I could go on for days but I think overriding all this is the real question “Do I REALLY want to do this?” as unless your passionate about what you do it’s a waste of time. I was not passionate about my uni choices which is why I started looking for alternatives. The fact you are reading this blog shows either you are perhaps not passionate but at least interested in what an apprenticeship can offer or at least not very interested in university! Ultimately my advice to any young student suffering the classic apprenticeship vs uni dilemma would be to educate yourself on both options as best you can and probably ignore my Pros and Cons above as they are likely biased haha!

Images sourced from:

University Equivalents… – Avtar Marway

Despite getting offers from all of the Universities that I applied to, I decided to take a different path and do an Apprenticeship. There were many positive reasons to go to University and I was ready to spend at least 3 years at one. Before I get onto the point of why I didn’t go to University, I just want to say that this blog is my opinion and my reasoning for choosing an Apprenticeship over University. Everyone else is entitled to their own opinions when comparing Apprenticeships with University.

I decided to enrol on the IBM Apprentice Scheme instead of going to University for a number of reasons. During my second year of A Levels, I spoke to my Dad and Uncle about the Universities I should apply to. They gave me their advice and also told me to keep my options open as there were University equivalents out there. I took their advice and started for looking for University equivalents. At this point in time, I wanted to go to University, and was happy going to the one closest to me, Aston University. This was my firm choice and Nottingham was my insurance choice. As my uncle works for IBM, I decided to look on their website for any school leaver schemes. To my luck, they had an Apprenticeship scheme and I decided to apply. I got through the application process, the aptitude test, the application review, and the assessment centre. I had my assessment centre on March 7th 2014 and was told a week later that I passed this stage. It then took over a month to find me a business unit, and for me to get confirmation of becoming an Apprentice at IBM. Until I got the confirmation from IBM that I was definitely going to be enrolled as an Apprentice in September, I was pretty sure that I was going to University.

In my honest opinion, I would still have gone to University, if I didn’t get the offer of employment with IBM. The IBM Apprenticeship scheme was the only Apprenticeship scheme that I applied to and the reasons that I took this offer was because:

  • IBM are one of, if not, the biggest consulting companies in the world
  • I knew it would be much more difficult to get a Job with IBM in the future
  • I knew that I would be able to progress a very good and sustainable career and future with IBM
  • I preferred the hands on learning style rather than the University learning style

Looking back at it now, I am glad that I made this choice of not going to Aston University or any other University to study Computer Science. I have had an amazing time so far at IBM and cannot wait to see what happens in the next few years. I do not regret joining IBM and doing an Apprenticeship. For me, it is a great alternative and it provides similar attributes to University such as improving confidence, learning new skills, working independently, as a team and so on. If any Apprentice feels that they could benefit with a degree, then they still have scope to study for one after their Apprenticeship scheme. So there it is, my honest opinion of why I didn’t go to University.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog.

If you have any other questions, would like to know more information about the Apprenticeship scheme or anything else, tweet me @AvtarMarway, message me on LinkedIn, or comment on this post!