Tag Archives: guest

My Placement Year at IBM – Maddie Coutts

Hi everyone! I’ve been asked to write a guest post for you all seeing as I’ve been a member of the behind-the-scenes blogging team. So here goes…

I’m currently in my third year at the University of Leeds studying BA Management and as part of my course I opted to do a placement year/year in industry. I chose to go to University because it was a better fit for myself and I wanted to continue my education whilst playing hockey for one of the top teams in the country. However, from the start I knew I wanted to do a placement year because I think gaining real work experience is one of the most valuable things you can do.

So I did what anyone looking for a job does … began searching! IBM was the first application I completed because the name had always been on my mind and I was impressed to see they offered a Marketing placement. From then on, whilst waiting to hear if I’d successfully passed the IPAT test, I filled out more applications for other companies. After a successful assessment centre, which was so much more relaxed than I would have thought, I entered the ‘matching’ process. The first match was quite a Technical Marketing role (yes it does exist!) down in Hursley, however, my first preference was for the Southbank office. This was one of the trickiest decisions I have made to date – do I accept the job even though my heart was set on working in London or do I risk not finding a placement and reject it? Well that’s the great thing about IBM – if you say no they will try and find you another match (although not always guaranteed) and that’s what happened.

My role during my placement year has been the Schools & Universities Attractions Coordinator which basically means I am responsible for the marketing activities to attract candidates to IBM. A lot of this is social media based, generating all content for Facebook and Twitter, alongside managing our careers website and creating promotional videos. I also work closely with companies such as Rate My Apprenticeship and Target Jobs and I create our online profile and any adverts we have on their sites. At first I found this challenging as it required extensive use of Photoshop however IBM were supportive in helping me acquire this skill.

Being an intern means that like Apprentices and Graduates I am part of Foundation. This is a great programme because, even within such a large organisation, there’s a real feeling of community among the ‘younger’ IBMers and there are always social activities going on across all schemes at each location. I have also found myself attend lots of Giveback events with IBMers from different schemes and backgrounds so this is another great way to network.

Some highlights for me during my year at IBM have been attending the Target Jobs Awards (where we won Best Apprenticeship Programme 2016!) which is where the picture below was taken. I’ve also had to start thinking of which area of IBM I would like to come back into as a Graduate. Watson is one of the most dynamic parts of IBM right now and I would love to come back into this area. As a result of networking and just putting my name out there, the Watson team invited me out to Lisbon to help run an event. This was really amazing because not only did I spend a few days abroad, but I worked closely with executives and partners and the advice I received was invaluable. I also have a pretty exciting end to my year – I’m working at Wimbledon! This was not easy to get as I had to attend an assessment centre against my peers which was slightly strange. But I’m very excited to experience Wimbledon and the amazing partnership they have with IBM.


So that’s just a very (very) short summary of my jam packed placement year at IBM. As you can see from my experiences there are a wide range of things to get involved in outside of your role and if I had to give any advice after a year in industry – take control of your future. It’s up to you to put yourself out there and try something different and no matter how you enter IBM, as an Intern, Apprentice or Graduate, I guarantee there will always be support and encouragement from those IBMers around you.

Thanks for having a read and feel free to message me on LinkedIn!

Maddie Coutts

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

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


Apprentices & Graduates, view from the Boss – guest post by Jenny Taylor, IBM UK Foundation Manager

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.