Monthly Archives: April 2016

IBM Apprenticeship vs Uni (in the view of an Apprentice) – John Longworth

Firstly, a very brief recap of myself for anyone that may not have read my ‘Introductory’ post. I’m now in my 3rd and final year of the IBM apprenticeship programme (started WAY back in February 2014) and have worked on 2 very different client accounts in multiple varied roles. I came out of sixth form with a qualification in Game Design and decided University just wasn’t for me. So naturally (and after MUCH research), I decided an Apprenticeship would be the way I would go. Funnily enough – that’s what this post will be focused around, Apprenticeships vs Uni and my opinion on the whole debate, so let’s get into it.

So, from my experience, back in 2014, the cost of going to Uni had just risen and Apprenticeships were *starting* to become a choice for young people leaving education. This meant I had to decide whether I had enough passion for a specific subject to take the financial hit (we’re talking tens of thousands) and pursue it in Uni or to choose a route where I would gain actual experience in a sector I had interest in. Now, I had always had an interest in technology and sport, so if I was going to leave sixth-form and go into a sector, it would have been one of those two. I had the grades to go to Uni, don’t get me wrong, but after looking into Apprenticeships as an option, for me personally, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Paying so much money to go and earn a degree in something that I had no idea whether it would pay off in the end or not (or even if I’d still have the passion for anymore!) VS choosing an industry I had some interest in and spending 2/3 years gaining actual experience AND being paid for it. So either a Full Time job or an Apprenticeship where my options.

So the process of searching through the National Apprenticeships website and going to see career advisers for ANY opportunities which sounded like an opportunity began. This threw up a plethora of Apprenticeships in the IT industry (IBM, HP, Capgemini etc…), all of which were applied for. One  competency test and a trip to Portsmouth for an Assessment Centre later and I’d accepted the IBM offer before anyone else had even got back to me!

Now, let’s not make this ‘my story’, the point of this post is to give my positives and negatives of an Apprenticeship scheme compared to Uni. Let’s start with the negatives; not because it’s the first thing that comes to mind, but because I’m a believer of ending on a high note, so we’ll save the best for last!

Funnily enough, even hyper-critical me is finding it hard to pick any huge holes in the IBM Apprenticeship or why it would be beneficial to go to Uni instead. Maybe there’s a *little* bias in there I admit, but honestly, nothing is so glaring that it needs a specific mention of the IBM scheme. However, in a much broader sense there are cons to an Apprenticeship – nothings ever perfect. Firstly, not having the ‘moving out and going to Uni’ experience, which I imagine is what attracts a lot of people to go to Uni, because they get to live away from home full time, but that doesn’t mean that in IBM you don’t have that opportunity, you just have to find the right project far enough away! Or the fact it’s a steep learning curve to going from education where you’re just taught what you need to know, to go into situations where you might have to meet real life client deadlines and take on a lot of responsibilities which could impact more than just yourself. For some people, that could become a little overwhelming but if this is something you feel okay with missing out on or dealing with, then yet again, most things seem to be in an Apprenticeships favour.

Now for the easy part, the pros to the Apprenticeship. Let’s start at the point which sways most peoples opinions, one way or the other. The cost. I think this somewhat speaks for itself, you can go on from the Apprenticeship debt free and without the worry of having to pay off tuition fees, student loans and the like. Coupled with this is the fact that you ‘earn while you learn’. Earning money while gaining a qualification is definitely a positive thing and if you’re the type of person who wants to start earning as soon as you can, then this should be the biggest incentive you could ask for. Not only this but Apprentices learn on the job, all the while you’re building up your skills which can be taken forward into you’re career. For example I’ve gained a qualification in ITIL (Service Management) and can now prefix myself with AMBCS. Which is something I’m personally quite proud of, but also something that being in an Apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to do. The amount of learning I could do within IBM internally itself I feel like probably rivals the amount you could learn in a specific subject while in Uni!

Overall, even after going over all the pros and cons in preparation for this post (a lot of which I’ve not included, as to not drag this on too long), I feel like I’ve not only just made the correct decision now, but in terms of my future, whether that be within IBM or in my career in general, I think being an Apprentice is going to help me, no end. I mean, just take a look at the rest of the posts on this blog if you don’t believe me! 🙂

John Longworth

What roles will I really be doing on my 3 years as an IBM Apprentice?

If you have read some of the other blogs on here you will know by now that the IBM apprenticeship does not consist of you making tea for your manager. After your induction training you get placed in a real role and deliver to a real client with the support around you to allow you to grow as an individual from the get go. When I was thinking of applying and when I had just started my apprenticeship, I had no idea what roles were available for me to gain experience in.  So, to prevent you having the same issue as me, I have listed some real examples of roles that are currently being fulfilled by graduates/ apprentices on my account, or roles that I have been involved in to give you a flavour of what you could get involved in.

Solution Analyst

Here you shall be required to work with the client to understand their business needs. You may have to represent your team by attending project inception meetings acting as a brief. Following this engagement you shall be required to put your investigation skills to the test and investigate their requirements via face to face Q & A meetings or interpreting Business and Technical documentation. This is just the start, as from this, you shall need to create a solution that meets their needs. The end result is that an estimate needs to be produced. So therefore you shall then need to associate this solution with a cost estimate and take them through various review cycles and then issue it to the project.

Who is this ideal for?

You don’t have to be technical but you have to be willing to learn technical aspects because technical knowledge will be required in this role. It is an ideal role for people who want to learn about technical aspects, but not into the depths of coding or detailed designing. You will gain an understanding of multiple roles within the project lifecycle via engaging with various stakeholders from both business and technical backgrounds. You can gain good exposure to key members of your centre. You are one of the first members of the centre projects who is engaged with,  so keeping up the centres reputation is everything in this role.

Release Manager

Different to Project Managing but building on the Solution Analysts initial solution, in this role you will face out directly to the client and be accountable for the safe delivery of your centres components that contribute to the client’s overall project.  You shall have to make sure delivery is on time and of high quality whilst managing internal and external communication via accurate and timely updates. This is achieved from management of Design, Development and testing teams within your centre. Not forgetting managing scope of your project as well as client expectations. After initial delivery is achieved you shall then be required to guide your team through support of the project until they have gone live with their whole solution, for which you shall co-ordinate the implementation of your components. After all of this you will have been expected to deliver on your commitments to the timeline and costs that you initially quoted.

Who is this ideal for?

Individuals who want exposure to multiple teams and can execute strong communication to multiple audiences. Technical understanding would help but is not vital. You need to make sure you can plan well and be both proactive and reactive to challenges that may arise. Someone who wants to understand about the majority of a project life cycle could have interest in this role.  Want something to build up to this role?…Why not try “project management office”.

Development Centre Designers

In this role you will have to take a Projects technical documentation to define the changes needed to existing components or scope out new components within your centre. The Projects are expected to be in a good enough position to provide your team with documentation that allows you to provide a sound, detailed design to fulfill their needs.  You shall be responsible for designing how a new component operates or how a changed component needs to now operate to fulfill the business/ technical requirement. Your team shall be led by a release manager but the release manager is very much reliant on you to deliver good quality deliverables required for later stages of the release. You shall be vital in maintaining the integrity of solutions built by your centre. You shall have to take your designs through review boards and then hand them off to other teams. You shall have to deal with multiple release managers and projects so you shall get a broad knowledge of the inflight changes being requested for your account.

Who is this ideal for?

This role is a step up from a Solution Analyst but within a different aspect of the project lifecycle.  It does require specialist knowledge to understand the design changes needed, but do not be put off by this as there are design roles that you can start up in. A good logical approach needed, along with problem solving abilities. Good quality delivery that is on time is key to maintain overall schedule.

Development Centre Developers

You are moving through the project life cycle now with a Developer role. Here you take the inputs provided by the design team and write code to actually create / amend the in scope component. This is where you get to really see your product come alive. You are responsible for the build and unit test of your component and supporting this through various testing phases to deal with any queries that may arise. Technical documentation production/ maintenance  is also a key aspect to this role to ensure your centre has a living asset that can be referenced for any further changes that need to be made to that component.   You shall also be required to support the centres testing team to set up their testing environment. Similar to the design team, your teams delivery shall be managed by the release manager, but again they are very much dependent on your specialist knowledge.

Who is this ideal for?

Development skills in certain languages are favourable, but again there are some roles which shall enable you to learn this. You need to deliver to your committed timescales and provide code that is structured in a logical and maintainable way, adhering to standards/ best practices.  This role can lead to other specialty areas and an experienced developer is definitely looked upon as key asset to any team.


You are the frontier to ensuring only quality products are released into projects or the live environment. There are many aspects and pathways in testing so this is a great area to explore. You take the solution the designers have designed, the developers have developed, and then prove that it’s everything they say it is. You have to take requirements and create your own testing scripts that make sure that you cover your testing scope. You shall have to work with environment services to set up the testing environments in preparation for your script execution. Design and Build teams may need to be consulted in setting up your tests or in the event of issues being found with their delivery. You need to accurately and clearly document your testing evidence and also if any issues are found within the code you are testing.

Who is this ideal for?

Someone who likes to try and find flaws with things no matter how many attempts or methods are required. It requires inquisitive individuals that are willing to understand the solutions to ensure it does exactly what it is supposed to by investigation.

Service Management

Here you get to see the final product of a project in action. A project can be set up to produce something and deliver it, but service management is there to make sure that what is produced is behaving how it should. If there are any requests or issues/ faults within this product once it is implemented, you have to make sure these are dealt with in an appropriate manner.  Whether this is managing communications with the client in which you delivered this product or coordinating with application maintenance teams to investigate / fix issues. Your aim is to allow the product that has been delivered to cause as minimum disruption as possible to its users.  You may have to work with multiple project managers to allow safe and timely handovers of projects into your control once they are delivered. You need to understand your systems function and have a defined and documented process to deal with situations that could arise once this becomes your responsibility to maintain.

Who is this ideal for?

It needs someone with good co-coordination/ communication skills and is not afraid to face out to key stakeholders/ clients.  Anyone that wants to understand applications that are built and fully functioning this may be of interest.  This role does still give you the opportunity to work with the teams that investigate / fix any issues so therefore you do get some high level technical understanding. Something to note is Service Management has roles within it to give you the opportunity to grow your understanding, before you step into a Service Manager role.


Other roles I could provide information about are: Project Management Office, Finance, Defect Management, Business Analysts, System Architects and Configuration managers.

Have you ever heard the phrase “a drop in the ocean”? Well bear that in mind as there are lots more accounts within the UK and lot more role types within IBM on offer!

Thinking of applying or thinking of changing roles within the apprenticeship?  If you want any more information about any of these roles then please do not hesitate to get in contact with me… (RYANMACM@UK.IBM.COM)

Year 1 Reflections – Richard Cure

Hi! I’m Richard and I’d like to share with you in my first blog post on how I got to IBM, my current role right now, and what I have learnt so far from my experiences with IBM.

My journey so far:

Having finished A-Levels with grades in Computing, Maths and Spanish in summer 2014 I knew I wanted to pursue a career in IT or Spanish. I ended up applying to Bristol University to study Computer Science with a year abroad and was lucky enough to receive an offer.

I also looked at apprenticeships as I knew they were viable alternatives to university. So in addition to my university application I applied to a handful of IT companies for their apprenticeship schemes, IBM being one of them.

After passing some online tests I was sent to Reading, for an assessment centre for another company’s apprenticeship scheme and naturally I was rather nervous. I did my best in the group activities and received an offer, but first I wanted to see what IBM could offer me. After a phone interview with an IBM employee and more online tests I travelled to Portsmouth for my second assessment centre. The day went well and a presentation from existing IBM apprentices affirmed what I already knew about the benefits of the scheme and what would happen for the duration of the apprenticeship.

A few months later I was contacted again to set up a final interview for the role I am doing now. This time however I felt relaxed and confident going into it because I knew what to expect having experienced interviews in my previous assessment centres. I think this showed in the interview and I was ecstatic to receive confirmation that I would start at IBM shortly after, so long as onboarding checks and associated paperwork etc. went well, which they did.

So overall it was a long process, but well worth it in the end.

Before joining IBM I had to make the difficult decision to defer my university offer but half a year later, I ultimately rejected my offer – this wasn’t too difficult after having worked as an apprentice for a while.

Now I’ve spent the last year and a bit on an IBM Programme mainly made up of application development projects aiming to develop, support and maintain a number of applications for an interesting customer and it’s been great!

What I’m doing now:

To explain a bit more about my main role – I’m working as a Build Specialist in the Server Build team, which entails looking after 200+ servers being used by my colleagues for project work (for those reading who aren’t sure what a “server” is, think of a server being like a powerful desktop computer without a monitor which performs a specific task). Our main responsibilities in the Build team are to make sure the servers are up to date software-wise and fixing any issues related to the computer environment which come our way before we hand over the servers to the test team. If testing is successful then whatever we have installed on our systems ends up in the hands of the customer to install on their systems, so it’s important we get it right first time and don’t miss anything! All these servers perform different roles and have different hardware and software requirements and specifications, so there’s been a lot learnt over the last year and for sure more to come.

In this role I’ve applied a variety of different skills, ranging from technical skills – understanding and operating the systems running on the servers (we’ve got at least 3: Windows, Linux and AIX – IBM’s own version of Linux) to personal skills – dealing with the customer, and speaking to them to arrange hardware fixes as the physical side of the servers are managed by the customer, to practical hands on skills – looking after the hardware devices physically in the office such as printers and taking responsibility for them.

The project likes to test us in different areas too, so in addition to my primary job role I’m also doing a Measurements Analyst role. It’s a natural fit for me because in this role I have free reign to look at the all data produced from the Programme which is held from a wide range of sources – databases, project logs, etc. and collate it to make sense of it, which I really enjoy. This means I get to build on my programming skills acquired from A-Level study and create informative graphs and charts which I present regularly to management. Recently I’ve been challenged with developing the estimation tool for faults used by the Project Managers to create estimates which feed in to the scheduling of their projects. This meant researching, understanding, and implementing linear regression and other statistical concepts such as Cook’s Distance into the existing tool, so I had to dig out my old statistics revision notes to help me out – who says you’ll never use Maths in your day job!

Thirdly, another role I’ve been assigned is Software Quality Analyst where I get to learn about the different software projects by interviewing the Project Managers and personnel involved and at the end of it, produce a report on whether they’ve been following best practices and procedures to ensure the quality of the project and its deliverables (by deliverables I mean work produced like software packages and project documentation to be given to the customer).

Overall it’s a lot of work, and really tests me as an early professional day in day out, but as a consequence I’ve grown in confidence, widened my knowledge and gained vital experience which you could argue university students and graduates lack to a degree (excuse the pun).

The main things I’ve learnt:

Qualifications aren’t everything. Sure they help to set a bench mark for knowledge, but it really is about the skills you can offer, and how you perform within a team to a) get things done b) add value to the business c) grow yourself, skills and career.

What things I was strong at, and what things I thought I was good at but actually wasn’t and need to work on more.

About independent living – I’ve had to move away from home and orientate myself in a new city, which has been really exciting but daunting at the same time.

How to navigate IBM. IBM is huge and have offices across the world, therefore you can’t avoid the news about what the company is doing. When I started I did find it difficult to work out which parts to pay attention to and which parts to filter out because everything was exciting and new to me. The structure and organisation side of IBM such as the employee’s homepage has improved a lot recently so it’s easier to find your way around and also now I have a feeling of the topics which interest me more than others, so I can channel my efforts and energy into what’s most important at the time. Also there’s a whole network of people you can ask to point you in the right direction.

Make the most of your time off – when you compare a full time job to studying the difference in free time is light years – so I’ve learnt to appreciate how valuable your spare time is. IBM supports you with this in the fact you can buy or sell holiday days in addition to the 25 days each year plus bank holidays. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to go on holiday to see Australia and New Zealand a few weeks ago which was amazing. I certainly would not have had been able to do this had I been at University!

Hard work pays off – I was recognised by the Programme Manager in the form of a Project Award only a few months after I joined. This really surprised me but definitely made me feel valued as part of the team even though I was only there for a short period of time.


Thanks for taking the time to read my first post, and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead – summer, training courses, the eventual completion of my apprenticeship qualification, and more posts of course!


IBM Brathay Team Challenge!

Brathay Apprentice Challenge!

As you may be aware from our previous blog, the Brathay Challenge (#BAC16) is underway and the IBM team are in need of your support. In case you missed the last update here is a brief overview of what we are doing.

We are a team of 9 Apprentices all from very different parts of the organisation working through a number of challenges in order to win the title of ‘Brathay Apprentice team of the year’. The challenges are designed to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships with young people, educational establishments, other businesses and the community.

Our Brathay challenge is split into two parts, the first being awareness of apprenticeships and promoting them, and the latter being our community project.
Our previous blog gave you an insight into how we have created an awareness of apprenticeships and the different formats we have used to do so and we also gave a small introduction into our community Project.  Here is a quick recap if you missed it!

Community project:

The team selected Spithead community centre for their project as this community Centre will help many local residents and assist SEHCO in providing activities for young people in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire.

Spithead community centre, situated on Montgomerie road, Southsea, is run by a Charity called ‘SEHCO’ (South East Hampshire Community Outlook) who aim to promote community involvement. SEHCO currently have three community centres for hire, and are also leading a major Big lottery funded initiative that delivers arts and sports activities for local 10-18 year old. 

Our community project is now complete and was a huge success!

The team of 9 Apprentice’s worked alongside SEHCO to prepare and plan the project. All equipment needed to be ordered and delivered ready for the apprentice’s arrival on the Saturday 2nd of April. This included the basic furniture including chairs and tables, a fridge and microwave, and even a flat screen TV and Xbox one! A projector screen was also bought so that the users of the centre can practice presentation skills.

The team were left to assemble the furniture, thoroughly clean the centre and set up the IT Suite using their technical knowledge which included updating the systems and ensuring that the users of the suite could access the web and print documents safely.

Here are some after Photos:

5 4  2. 1.3

We will now be creating a portfolio to show what we have completed for the challenge so far and producing evidence to see if we have earnt a place in the Finals week commencing on the 13th June.

Please help support us and keep up to date with our progress on Twitter @IBMBAC16.


The Power of Networking – Avtar Marway

Networking… What is networking?
Networking is when someone creates a group of acquaintances or associates and regularly keeps in contact with these people. For example, if you want to find out more about IBM, you can network with someone working at IBM. By networking with someone from IBM, you’re able to find out more about IBM, and the person working at IBM can find out more about you, and what you do.  There should be a mutual benefit between the person and the people in their network. A trust should be built over the time you have communicated with a person in your network.

A network can consist of managers, contractors, colleagues, friends etc. Networking makes you more known, can raise your profile, and can provide you with job opportunities.

When I joined IBM, I wanted a role within SAP (Systems Applications Products). I did not have any knowledge in this area, nor did I have any contacts in my network that worked in a SAP role. My Task Manager, and People Manager were aware that I was interested in working in this role but there was little they could do from their side. After expanding my network on my first client site, I was able to express this interest to more people, which led to myself getting a SAP Contact.

When I first spoke to this contact, I gave them background information on who I was, what I was doing, and the reasoning for my interest in the SAP Area. I also returned questions and found out more about the person. I spoke to this person a few times a month and obtained a trustworthy relationship with them. By speaking to them frequently over the phone and over IBM SameTime (instant messenger), they were able to find out what type of person I was. I was able to show the contact that I was a proactive person, willing to help other people and worked hard.

In January 2016, I was looking for a new role and a new project. It was one of my yearly goals to join a SAP project, and eventually undertake a role in the SAP Area, so I wanted to make this happen. It had been over a year since first contacting this person, and I had kept in contact with them throughout my time on different client sites. When looking for a new role, I asked this person, if I could shadow someone on the client site that he works on, to find out more about SAP. As this person had never received a request such as this one before, he spoke to the leadership team on the account that he worked on. The contact explained who I was, what I did, and my interest in SAP. He also gave them information on what he thought of me as a person, and about some key attributes which he had identified in me from talking to me. This led to them creating a role for me on the client site. The role was a SAP Performance Analyst role.

By networking, I was able to get a role in the area that I wanted, whilst making myself more known to different people. As mentioned above, Networking makes you more known, and can provide you with job opportunities, which Is what it did for me.

I’m still undertaking this role, and I have learned a lot about SAP. I am enjoying this role, and I am glad that I reached out to my network when I was looking for a new role.

If you’d like any more questions on networking, IBM, the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme, feel free to comment, email me AvtarMar@UK.IBM.COM or tweet me @AvtarMarway.


Graduation and the road to Promotion – Craig Wilkinson


It’s me again! I know it’s been a while since I last posted but I thought I’d use some downtime productively and fill you in on some exciting milestones I’m currently experiencing in my time as an IBM Apprentice.

If you’re an avid and regular reader of our Blog, I’m sure you have a general gist of how the Apprentice scheme at IBM works. You join as a permanent IBM employee from day one, have two weeks of essential induction being taught how to work the IBM way safely and professionally, start in real roles, doing real work with real Clients, attend tailored IBM education courses to improve professional effectiveness, teamwork and communication, as well as learn how to handle relationships with the Client and during all this you are looked after by the Foundation team for three years.

You will also know that by the time you come to the end of the three years, the essential part of proving your education to earn the qualification, graduation and progression into the business as a regular IBMer await you.

As you may have read from my previous posts, I am now in that crucial, final stretch of the Apprenticeship and have achieved my Apprentice qualification. What has happened since then? I officially graduated!

On 14th March 2016, coinciding with the start of National Apprenticeship Week (read what IBM Apprentices did here), we celebrated the graduation of 28 Apprentices (including myself) who had worked hard over roughly two to three years and achieved their Apprentice Qualifications.

14th March 2016 Apprentice Graduation

The Graduation day was held in IBM Southbank, London, and celebrated the success of the Apprentices over the two-to-three years as well as continually blowing the trumpet for the opportunities and success for Apprentices in general.

IBM UK General Manager David Stokes was also in attendance of the event and explained his passion for Apprenticeships and the impact Apprentices have had for IBM in the UK. Along with David, we also had a talk from Foundation leader Jenny Taylor and the Apprenticeship leader Jez Brooks. Also, a special  mention to the many parents, siblings, partners and friends that came along to celebrate!

Once the Graduation day ended and all the handshakes and certificates had been given out, many Apprentices disbanded from their family and friends and joined other Apprentices in various drinking establishments to celebrate the proper way.

Once the fun of Graduation and the celebration of being Apprentice went away and the normality of work returned, what did I do? I begun working on my promotion case.

The criteria for an Apprentice to progress from Foundation into the business as a ‘normal’ IBMer is to create a promotion package in an IBM tool called Career Framework and provide the relevant evidence so, once approved, you would be proposed for the next promotion level. The promotion package pretty much sums up the work you have done as an Apprentice and allows you to progress and obtain higher levels if that is where your ambitions lie.

I recently had my promotion approved which means that any day I will receive communication that I have been promoted which is a very important milestone in anyone’s career and especially important when you’re an IBM Apprentice as it would mean that you are now being progressed into business and will be considered just like any other IBM.

I’ve been told by a few ex-Apprentices that the journey really begins once you’re promoted!

– Craig Wilkinson



It’s Never Too Late – College Is Tough! – Josh Abraham

For many of our Apprentices, looking at Timehop over the next few weeks will certainly bring a few throwbacks of the last few days of School or College. It was five years ago that I was leaving school. If someone were to tell me then that in five years’ time I would be finishing my apprenticeship at IBM, I would probably just laugh, something along the lines of ”Everyone just goes to Uni I don’t think apprenticeships are for me… what’s IBM?”

I left school with some very good GCSEs ready to move on to the next big thing, College. Right from the get go at College everyone around seemed to have a plan, something I hadn’t quite yet figured out. Turns out “I’ll just do some courses and go to Uni” was not the best approach when it came to choosing courses. I ended up doing some A-levels that really weren’t for me, but by the time I had realised this, it was already too late to change. As a result my first year at College wasn’t great, so when second year came around I had some serious thinking to do.

I had only passed two out of the four AS levels I had taken, meaning as it stood, I wasn’t going to get into Uni & I wasn’t going to be in the best position once I left College looking for work. I thought I had messed up my life. I was invited in to College for a meeting with the Careers Service and my tutor where I was told that I would need to do a whole A-level (or a level three equivalent) in one year in order to continue. I didn’t have much to pick from, I decided to take IT.

This was a massive turning point for me. Although I had to do double the work, I consistently churned out top marks in my assignments, made even better by the fact I was really enjoying what I was doing. This was something I could do as a career! I began looking for Uni courses.

Prior to this moment, I hadn’t really had much exposure to the world of technology and IT, so thought it would be a good idea to find work in the industry for a year before Uni. I spoke to careers & they suggested I look for a short term Apprenticeship. I began my search & started to apply.

I was mostly applying for year apprenticeships at schools, where the wages weren’t great but it was the experience I was after. This was true for all except one in particular. IBM. The Apprenticeship was longer than I was looking for and I’d never heard of them but I was intrigued to see why they were paying so much. After visiting the website and reading up on what the IBM Apprenticeship could offer, the experience, education & high starting and finishing salary, I realised this was a viable alternative to University and so I applied.

I began receiving invites to interviews for a few schools and accepted a place as a technician, due to start in July as soon as I finished my A-Levels. IBM invited me in for an interview assessment day in Hursley during this time frame.

It was the day before I was due to start at the school IBM gave me the call offering me a place on their Apprenticeship scheme. I’m now two and a half years in, completed my qualifications & looking to move to become a fully pledged IBMer. I haven’t looked back since.

Leaving school can be tough and College even tougher, especially if you don’t know what your plan is or not doing as well as you would like to be. But don’t panic, it doesn’t mean you’re going to end up with nothing. Just know that it’s never too late, be open to new things, be willing to work and you’ll get there.

What did IBM do for National Apprenticeship Week 2016? – Ben Rickett

National Apprenticeship Week ran from 14th– 18th March this year. The week is a government driven initiative by the Skills Funding Agency, designed to celebrate and promote apprenticeships and the work that apprentices do. As IBM are a large apprentice employer, it was important for us to play a big part in the week; organising a number of celebration and promotion events right across the UK from Portsmouth to Greenock. A large team pulled together to run activities and engage with school students, parents and our clients. Some activities that we ran are described below.

NAS ‘Rise to the Top’ Event – The Shard, London
NAW was kicked off with an event organised by the National Apprenticeship Service at the amazing venue of London’s The Shard.
The venue was packed out with Apprentices, Employers, Ambassadors and guest speakers including Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
Apprentices and employers from a number of different industries across the UK were on hand to share their experiences and talk about the future of apprenticeships and find out about what other apprentices do. A number of employers also pledged to employ more apprentices throughout the year, demonstrating growth for apprenticeships!

Internet of Things Workshop – IBM Warwick
IBM Warwick was the first of our IBM location events to host a number of school and college students for an hands-on, interactive Internet of Things Workshop.
Students were given a case study and then had to develop solutions to real world problems using the Internet of Things. Key skills were taught during the day, including communication and presentation, as attendees then had the opportunity to present back to the group. Feedback from the session was excellent and it was enjoyed by all.

Interactive Open Day – IBM North Harbour
North Harbour hosted an interactive event for college students to find out more about IBM and the apprenticeship scheme. The day was split into two 3 hour sessions. In the morning they had students from South Downs College and Highbury College, then in the afternoon they had students attending from Portsmouth College and Oakland Sixth Form.
The event consisted of a presentation followed by 3 activities. The first was the Amazebots which were included to show some simple programming. Second was the survival activity which was done to demonstrate students teamwork, communication and decision making skills as they had to prioritise items and present this information back. And finally the Lego activity was used to show their written communication skills as they needed to build something and provide the other team with instructions on how to build it. They then had a Q&A sessions with IBM apprentices after these activities took place.

Open Day – IBM Hursley
A group of apprentices held an open day at Hursley during the week, for local schools and colleges students to learn more about IBM. The day was full of different speakers – including hearing from Andy Stanford-Clark, Master Inventor, about his career and all the cool things he’s created.
The team led the group of school and college students through various tours around Hursley and the students left well informed of the different routes available to them after college.
All students and teachers really enjoyed the afternoon, and praised us for holding an excellent event

Skills Day – IBM Greenock
We had 16 pupils from a number of different schools and colleges to come and enjoy an exciting skills day, where students were given a case study scenario and asked to design a website for a fictional client.
Throughout the day, guests learned about the apprenticeship scheme as an alternative to university, especially for those that prefer hands on work. Everyone had a great day, the students had fun and it was a great opportunity to spread the word about our scheme whilst teaching the students some useful skills!

Open Evening – IBM Manchester
Jen Coyle, Leanne Vickers and Sarah Horner held their open evening with the help of Early Professional Managers (EPM) Trevor Lee and Kashif Taj, Sales Manager Keith Oulton along with few interns at Jackson House this evening. They began with a presentation from Sarah and Jen about IBM and our Apprenticeship scheme day.
The highlight of the evening was the speed-networking session where the students and parents were split into groups for an informal Q&A session with different IBMers. They also held a competition for the guests best #IBMNAW16 tweet, with a prize for their favourite. The students left with an Apprenticeship application starter pack, filled with example group exercises and recruitment tips.
The feedback received from the guests praised the team for their organisation enthusiasm, with many comments about the teams “personable” and “honest” feel. Many parents commented on how informative the presentation was and some students also added they would love to work for IBM after this event!
Overall the evening was an outstanding success and the team did the North West proud

Watson Innovation Event – IBM Southbank
To bring our NAW activities to a close on Friday, we held a Watson Innovation Workshop in Southbank, inviting guests from external companies and also internal ones to take part in this fun team based activity. Apprentices descended upon the client centre from Cisco, Accenture, Capgemini and VISA, as well as attendees from our own scheme and Movement to Work placement students.
Guests learned about Watson’s real world capabilities and then had to utilise the abilities of Watson, to design a solution to a real-life problem that the individual teams had to think up. After identifying, analysing and designing a solution, the teams each had to pitch the ideas back to the rest of the room and EPMs present. Great fun was had by all and feedback from the external apprentices was fantastic.