Monthly Archives: September 2015

Degree apprenticeships for the digital & technology space – benefits all round…

And as part of our ‘Foundation: where are they now?’ series, IBM Foundation wants to tell you all about the new Degree Apprenticeship programme.  We’re really excited about this, and we think you will be too – check it out …..

The end of traditional schooling is often a confusing time for students, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t also be an exciting one. Whatever the student is moving on to, be it a gap year, apprenticeship, university stint, or a mixture of them all, the good news for today’s school leavers is that there has never been more options open to them than there are right now.
Our economy is prospering, but the technology and digital skills gap is currently casting a greater shadow of doubt over the long-term health of the UK’s economy than any fear over Chinese market fluctuations; the UK exit from the European Union; or even the hacking horrors of cyber-attacks.
This is leading to some pretty radical new approaches to career paths, the latest of which is the Degree Apprenticeship.
At the beginning of the year the Government announced that Degree Apprenticeships would be offered in key areas including: chartered surveying, aerospace engineering and nuclear engineering. Groups of businesses, universities and colleges were set to develop practical, vocational degree courses which would allow students to combine both the academic study of a traditional university degree with the practical experience and wider employment skills gained through real work vital for career success.
Fast forward nine months and we’re beginning to see this filter through to areas like technology and digital skills as well with both Queen Mary University of London (QMUL, and Glasgow Caledonian recently endorsing Degree Apprenticeships for digital and technology solutions.
As one of the biggest University of London colleges, QMUL is the only London-based Russell Group University offering the digital and technology solutions Degree Apprenticeship from September 2015. It will be delivered by the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, with contribution from the School of Business and Management equating to approximately an 80/20 split.
All project modules are work-based and will include minimal attendance on campus, with sessions being tailored specifically to degree apprentices, together with additional support through QMUL’s virtual learning environment, QMPlus. They will also incorporate a component of employer assessment alongside academic assessment.
With the composition of the UK’s workforce shifting firmly towards that of the millennial generation it’s critical that we keep innovating with new approaches to education if we are to attract high caliber talent into the business world – talent that might have ordinarily bypassed it due to the traditional restrictions of standard education.
The benefits of hiring new talent with a demonstrated competence in the workplace and the theoretical knowledge gained through a high-standard university curriculum should not be underestimated. Furthermore, the working collaboration between business and education will allow the flexibility to influence course design and meet contemporary business needs – another hugely relevant and important element.
Degree Apprenticeships will bring together the very best of higher and vocational education, and allow apprentices to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree whilst training on the job.
Backed by the likes of John Lewis Partnership, Lloyds Banking Group and IBM (to name but three), the Tech Partnership and some of our top education institutions like Queen Mary University of London & Glasgow Caledonian, they will help ensure the UK meets the challenge of the skills gap head on. Crucially it will also give young people across the country the chance of a great, exciting and varied start to their working lives too.

Guest blogger

IBM Foundation: where are they now? – Oliver Pope-Mostowicz

So here’s an interesting turn up.

I started this blog, along with a number of my Apprentice colleagues for National Apprenticeship Week … wait for it … 1.5 years ago!  Since then, we’ve pretty consistently posted a blog a week on a huge array of subjects – all from the view point of IBM Apprentices.  I’m really proud of what has been done here.

What makes this even more interesting, for me at least, is that the start of this blog marked the half way point in my career as an IBM Apprentice.  Which, as you have guessed, means that (by the time this blog is published – so long as everything goes according to plan *touch wood, throw salt over shoulder, buy a horse shoe etc*) I am no longer an IBM Apprentice.  I have ‘graduated’ from the Apprenticeship scheme and have joined my colleagues as an IBM professional.

It’s quite strange; I look back on that first blog post and I can see an element of defensiveness – I was proving to the world around me that I had made the right decision, that I was an IBM Apprentice and proud and here are all the reasons why ‘I was right and you were wrong’.  Part of me has stayed the same – I’m still immensely proud that I am/was an IBM Apprentice, I know I made the right decision and I still occasionally like to take on the world. But I like to think that part of me has also changed.

In the time since I joined IBM in September 2012, I have been all across England, to Vienna and Barcelona, I have worked 15+ hour days, worked on holidays and been woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from work.  I have sat in client offices as the sole IBM technical representative and I have created architectures for client systems that are now in place and support their critical services that allow them to run their business.  I have made friends, I have been coached by excellent mentors, and I have been absolutely awestruck by human beings and technology more than once.  I’m a qualified TSM administrator, an Infrastructure Architect and a Registered IT Technician (see Paul Martynenko’s post from last week).  That sounds like I’m boasting – and maybe I am a little, I told you, I’m proud of my achievements – but mostly it’s just incredible to me to sit back sometimes and just list what I’ve done, where I’ve been and who I’ve met.

On that last point, I’ve met ex-Foundation members who are now IBM Distinguished Engineers (the highest technical banding within IBM), who are running *massive* global accounts and who are involved in continuing the support of the Foundation scheme seeking out new talent and new opportunities amongst young people.

Now I’m not saying I’m going to reach those lofty heights (though I certainly intend to), but it does give me pause for thought …

Foundation: Where are they now?  Probably the question is more where aren’t they?  And more importantly, why aren’t you here as well?

Oliver Pope-Mostowicz

Registered IT Technicians at the top of the Gherkin – Paul Martynenko

For our next guest blog post we are truly grateful to Paul Martynenko, IBM Vice President and Technical Executive Europe, who has written a post about his visit to the Gherkin to speak at an event launching a new, industry wide, accreditation – an accreditation of which the first 10 members were IBM Apprentices!

A short while ago I was asked to give an after dinner speech at the restaurant at the top of the Gherkin.

I agreed, but not because of the fine dining, or the restaurant’s great reviews, or because of the amazing views over London from the 39th floor.

Let’s be clear, if you have to speak after dinner then you usually don’t enjoy the food or the views; you focus on your speech. In truth you rarely eat much.

No, the reason I volunteered was because it was the dinner to mark the soft launch of the new Registered IT Technician professional recognition. Sponsored by the BCS The Chartered Institute for IT, who will run the accreditation process and maintain the register of IT Technicians. This new qualification is a massive step towards making professional accreditation available to all IT people.

Accreditation which gives employers trust in the people they employ and lets employees differentiate themselves. We have long benefited from accreditations in the IBM Professions but this sets a new industry wide standard. And it’s a step towards the BCS’s Chartered IT Professional which is the gold standard for professionalism outside IBM. So that was definitely enough of a reason to speak.

But what really convinced me was the fact that the first Registered IT Technicians are our colleagues.

Ten of them, three of whom joined us at the dinner. As I toyed with my bread roll, and picked at my main course, I was immensely proud of our team. They should have given the after dinner speech not me. And, in part, they did, as the BCS had made a series of promotional videos featuring them which were played just before I spoke. They were the stars.

Please take a look and congratulate them: video link

Paul Martynenko

 

CAMSS? Just another acronym?

CAMSS. It’s another acronym. Does it look familiar to you? Doing a Google search for ‘CAMSS’ will mostly yield results related to IBM as this is our ‘keyword’ for the future direction the company is taking. Yet, IBM are not the only company diverging and investing in the CAMSS space. Many other global technology corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Accenture and HP are also heading in a similar direction. However not many people understand just what these initiatives are.

I currently work on account which is the other side of the country to my home town, and any trips back require a number of hours on public transport. I thought one day, whilst I was bored and had just finished an IBM quiz on Cloud, to maybe do an experiment and see who else on the commute would know about cloud, analytics, mobile, social or security. While I think there may be a select few who would understand, the majority of people will probably look at me funny and some would probably tell me to go away. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually go around asking people that, it was the end of a long week of work and I just went to sleep!

If you’re not that sure about CAMSS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social and Security) then be glad you have our blog. I will cover briefly what each initiative is, and how it ties in to the work we do to improve the way our clients and people in general work.

Cloud

When we talk about cloud, we don’t talk about things being put on to actual clouds, but keep the metaphor in mind as it is probably the easiest way to explain Cloud to someone who is not necessarily in the know. When a company is looking to upgrade their existing infrastructure, maybe to support a new project or keep up with business demand or growth, a company will probably start costing how much it would be to buy all the networking gear and hire professionals who are able to install the new network. Many companies will probably outsource this work to a reputable company. While this means that company will have their own infrastructure, it is often very costly and, to keep their systems secure and running smoothly, they will likely have to upgrade in the next five (or less) years. So how does a company keep up with demand and technology without having to fork out money every number of years? Turn to the Cloud. Companies like IBM offer Cloud solutions using the latest hardware which can dynamically assign resources depending on the demand from a client. So in the example of an online retailer, Summer can be quiet and the Cloud infrastructure can be scaled down (saving the customer money) and once Christmas hits, more resources can be assigned to cope with the new demand. This is an example of Infrastructure as a Service. You also have Platform as a Service and Software as a Service for hosting singular or a variety of different applications in the Cloud.

Analytics

Data is everywhere. An average person working a 9 to 5 job likely wakes up and checks the latest news or their favourits websites on their phone, eats their favourite cereal or breakfast, washed with certain hygiene products, drives a certain car to work, takes a certain route and when they get to work accesses certain websites or does online shopping buying certain quantities of different products. How much data could you gather from that person based on the above scenario? The same applies to businesses in terms of customer demand, current trends, buying habits, preferred products and financial predictions, for instance when the company is likely to make or lose money. All these data points are useful and Analytics can be utilised to provide a company with useful insights into how their business is operating and can assist in making informed business decisions.

Mobile

In these times, you will struggle to find a person who doesn’t own a mobile phone and smartphone use is ever on the rise. If you were a company looking to improve your web or user experiences for your customers, then it would make sense to go mobile. After all, people are always busy moving around, less people are confined to a desk with one computer for their whole life and much more work is being done on commutes with smartphones or tablets (or other similar devices). A lot of companies and online websites already do a lot of work to make their business experience more mobile. For example, on this Apprentice blog, we’ve done a lot of work this year to make our website more accessible for a range of different users which includes utilising a mobile version of the site and allowing authors to create and edit content on smartphones and tablets (I am writing this article on the bus while on the way to work!). You only need to look at the sheer amount of companies who have a mobile site and initiatives such as Apple Pay to see how seriously companies are taking mobile.

Social

As I type this, Facebook has recently announced that they are celebrating one billion active users online at any one time. Just think on that for a sec, one billion active users with a social media account, that’s 1/7 of the worlds population online at any one time, 1/7 of the worlds population with social media accounts and of those accounts, the average Facebook user has 338 friends (Six Degrees of Seperation Theory anyone?). Companies know the sheer power of social media and are utilising it in many ways such as word of mouth advertising, encouraging users to share experiences of their products, targeted advertising based on a users likes and preferences (again, back to analytics here) as well as Twitter accounts which provide a means of customer service support or providing latest updates (especially useful in terms of transport). Essentially, social media brings customers and companies closer together and the power of communication and human socialising shouldn’t be underestimated.

Security

Increasingly, we are hearing in the news of scandals in terms of data breaches and hacks being performed on major or sensitive websites. (Quite recently, the hacking of Ashley Madison has got quite a few high profile people hot under the collar!). How do these data breaches happen? It’s quite simple: security simply was not good enough. While it’s good to have an amazing infrastructure, servicing customers effectively over social media, a good mobile experiences, it would all amount to nothing if all that customer information was illegally accessed and shared to the wrong person just because of inadequate security. The cost to a company of data breaches is highly significant and has caused companies to go bankrupt from the legal costs associated with compensation for loss of customer data.

I hope this article goes a way to clear up what we mean by ‘the CAMSS agenda’ and clarifies why companies like IBM have chosen to guide business direction toward these initiatives. Once again, I look forward to posting to you again soon. – Craig