Tag Archives: uni

My opinion of the IBM Degree Apprenticeship – Megan Murray


For my blog this quarter I decided to cover my opinion of the Degree Apprenticeship Scheme… and as a painfully honest person it’s always a little bit scary to voice your opinion on anything; let alone when your employer and people responsible for your future career will be reading what you have to say!

A summary for those of you reading who may not be aware of the scheme – the IBM Degree Apprenticeship is a part time degree over 4 years in Digital & Technology Solutions (Computer Science and Business essentially), and we attend Queen Mary University of London twice a week during term time and work at IBM for the rest of the time as normal employees. This year was the first year of the scheme and after a couple of weeks of exams the first year of uni will be complete!

The first opinion I guess I’d have to give is that it is hard work… you get plenty of uni students who struggle and they’re often not even having to balance going to work for one of the biggest tech/business companies alongside it all! It can be stressful and difficult to keep up with everything you’ve got going on, plus depending on your background, the content can be tough to get your head around, especially if you’re trying to learn stuff for work at the same time! Thankfully though IBM really are very flexible with it all and if you’re struggling, there is always something that can be done or someone who can help, but resilience definitely goes a long way.

The second thing is the number of opportunities to do something else in addition to your ‘everyday’ apprenticeship, it’s astounding! For me I wanted to fully focus on university and getting through first year until I really got involved in anything else, but I can’t wait to start to get stuck in to some other events and opportunities that are open to apprentices.

Thirdly, it’s massively rewarding… even more so because it is difficult. Whether it’s passing a mid-term or handing in a piece of coursework, or doing something to really help your team, or taking part in some Giveback. You are praised for what you do achieve, and supported in what is more difficult. The apprenticeship scheme at IBM is recognised and you are appreciated. It’s difficult not to be proud of yourself when everyone is telling you how much you should be when taking on a degree and work at the same time!

Finally, because it is a central reason why many people take apprenticeships, it’s undeniably a huge attraction not having to pay your uni fees and get in all that debt. They’re covered by the Government and IBM, plus you get a salary so technically you almost get paid to go to university, plus you get tons of real world experience and knowledge too… and that’s pretty sweet whichever way you look at it.

In summary, I guess my opinion is that if you’re willing to put in the hard work and dedication then this scheme is a really good option. It’s rewarding, comes with plenty of opportunities, gives you the chance to learn loads of new stuff and kick starts your career… I don’t think anybody could say that isn’t a good choice.


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 changes after you graduate? – Avtar Marway

Hi all, it’s Avtar Marway here, back with another blog!
As you may be aware, the theme for recent blogs have been about IBM Apprentices who have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme and today my blog will be about what changes when you graduate.

When you start your apprenticeship with IBM, you are already considered a permanent IBM employee. You are given a duration of 3 years to complete your apprenticeship, and once these 3 years are complete, your title as an apprentice is taken away, and you are just known as an ‘IBMer’.
When you graduate, you are still considered a permanent IBM employee so there is no change in your status as an IBM employee.

Another thing that doesn’t change when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme is your role and service line. Unless you decide to change roles, or request to change your service line, you will still be in the same role that you were in before. This means, you can continue to work in the profession that you would like to after you finish your apprenticeship.

Now, what does change? In IBM, there are different bands, and different levels that you can be. The higher these levels are, the more dependent your role becomes. For example, a higher band role could be a Test Manager role, whereas a lower band role could be a Test Analyst role. When you are an apprentice, you start in an educational band, and progress to the first professional band. Once you have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme, you can progress up through the bands. However, being in a lower band does not mean you can’t do higher band roles. It just means you will not be in the band that most manager roles etc are already in. You are not limited to specific roles based on your band type.

Another thing that changes is that you’re no longer part of Foundation! As an apprentice, you have an Early Professionals Manager (EPM), who is there to help develop your skills, as well as be your manager at IBM. An EPM is only there for you during your Apprenticeship and while you are in Foundation. Once you have progressed out of the apprenticeship world, you also progress out of Foundation, which means you no longer have an EPM. Instead, you have a PeM which is a People Manager.

Is that all that changes? Nope! There are a few more things… such as not having to complete specific documents like IBM journals which lead toward completing your OCR mapping document. The OCR mapping document is used in the apprenticeship scheme in order to help you complete your Apprenticeship qualification. As you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you will no longer be required to complete these.

I’m sure I’ve given you a few points of what changes and what stays the same when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme. And I’m sure, if you’re interested, you’ll want to find out more.
So as usual… feel free to tweet me @AvtarMarway, message me on LinkedIn “Avtar Marway” or email me “AvtarMar@uk.ibm.com, if you have any questions, queries about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme or IBM in general!

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:



Apprenticeships vs University – The Choice is yours

It’s a Trap! No it’s me Tom. C, back with another blog post.

Now I would start with the usual rambling about my current situation with the courses, projects and random assortments of bad puns but I have been asked to write a post about the University verses Apprenticeships debate. Well Hmph! I was going to retell the story of how I saved the entire project from a pack of angry wolves using nothing but a creme egg and a paper clip, another time I guess.

Well it’s certainty a timely topic, according to a study at ‘Just Googled it INC’ apprenticeships are on the rise with “440,400 apprenticeship starts in 2013/14”  and while “the media” will have you believe that apprenticeships descended from the clouds to bring peace and harmony to the job market, University is still a completely valid decision for further education. IBM is in an interesting position when it comes to this debate because simply in the long run is doesn’t really matter. IBM hires both Apprentices and Graduates and under each scheme you’re given equal opportunities. On both you’ll receive training and more often than not Apprentices and Graduates end up working on the same projects. Whether that be helping a client build their business, developing the next app or recovering a project from a complete system failure after someone dropped a strawberry bonbon into a P-series (that will also have to be for another time).

So to help defuse this debate let’s take the common ground between each offering and compare them factoring in my own personal experience gained from the apprenticeship.


Well first we have education – the tasty jam filling to the Further Education sandwich (should really not write theses so close to dinner).

Education is important there’s no doubt about that. In University you have your syllabus (my teacher always called it a “silly-bus” as it’s a weird ride through life): the best thing about the syllabus is its set, it’s a consistent. You know exactly what you’re going to learn about, if you turn up to a job interview and say “Hi, I’ve got a Masters in Computer Science” everyone will have a good idea about your knowledge set.

In an apprenticeship it’s a much broader playing field. If you take the “Technical Solutions Specialist” apprenticeship IBM offers. You’ve got me working as a Security SME, Infrastructure Architect and a Linux Sys Admin. You also have a good friend of mine Yasmin Stageman (you should totally check out her blog) who works as a Java Programmer and has recently taken up a role a Technical Project Manager. Two completely different job roles under one title. Also in an Apprenticeship the amount you learn and develop is completely on you. You decide what courses you would like to attend and how much you pick up on project.

Finally there’s qualifications. As stated in my previous blog I wanted to gain more certifications and I can happily say I have completed my CompTIA Security+ Exam! (Yay) which is by far one of the best parts of the Apprenticeship. In University you end up with one big qualification: the course you applied for. In an Apprenticeship you can come away with one, or multiple, industry-recognized qualifications.


At the end of the day you still have to work on an Apprenticeship and you still have to go to Lectures at University (though of course the latter does not involve what is traditionally referred to as work). Work is not all that bad: you’re still doing something you love but instead of doing it for yourself you’re doing it for the client.  There isn’t much to say on the topic – if you’re in a role you enjoy then the 9-5 won’t even matter.


Another point in the Apprenticeship vs University debate is the fact that you’re constantly learning on an apprenticeship – and I have found this to be very true. At the current moment I have a Senior Architect sitting behind me, our Senior Database Administrator to my left, two AIX/Linux System Admin to my right and a Customer Relationships Manager in front of me. The years of experience on offer is truly amazing and I get to work with these people every day learning from them to help develop my skills and learn from my mistakes. Learning from experience also helps you to diagnose issues very quickly which others may have taken hours to fix. Mainly because the manual will say one thing but in most cases you have to do something else.

Social Life

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to Uni Social life, I can’t talk form personal opinion but all I hear is that it’s the best, it’s amazing and is something that you have to be there to believe. As for the Apprenticeship we still have a great social life. We all get together, go bowling, go-carting and play FootGolf. Not to mention the pub. lots and lots of Pubs! As for IBM itself, there’s internal Hack-a-thons, the Corporate Games (which is like an internal Olympics) which is always a great hit. Projects (like the one I’m on) also celebrate Christmas and Project Releases which is always great fun.


I’m sure I don’t have to go on about the “£50,000” worth of debt everyone keeps talking about but it’s not really ‘debt’ – you are investing in an education for later life and in my mind if you want to go for it, GO FOR IT. On the apprentice side, you get paid X amount of money alongside that you get IBM discounts/cash back on various products, private health care and bonus depending on your “PBC” Rating. There is also “TAP” which, if you are entitled to, is an allowance for accommodation or travel money to allow you to work way from home which is great.

Well there you have it: my 5 points on the Uni vs Apprenticeships argument. In my opinion they’re are both perfectly good opportunities. I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my Apprenticeship experience so far and would completely recommend it to anyone. I’ve learnt a ton, met some amazing people and have had a great kick start to me career. As for Uni it’s up to you. It’s your decision and I hope which ever one you make you are happy with the choice.

That was me Tom. C See you next time!

The best option for YOU – Josh White

For my generation University has always been the main path to choose when leaving school/college. Is it the right path through? Is that the only option? The simple answer is no.

When I was at school doing my GCSEs and A Levels the expectation was that my classmates and I would go to university to continue with further study. I think the main reason for this based on my experience of speaking to teachers during my time on the IBM Apprenticeship is that there was/is simply a lack of knowledge of the other options that are out there. I have done numerous talks to school pupils/parents/teachers about the options IBM has to offer as an alternative to going to University and I have had very positive reactions mainly because the audience I was speaking to was not aware of the different career paths.

Do what is best for you and what you want to achieve. No route is right or wrong as long as what you choose to do ticks the right boxes and helps you achieve what you need to in order to reach your goals.

There are different reasons why people choose one route or another whether it is to go to University to live away from home or dive straight into the world of work and earn money. For me, being on the IBM Apprenticeship, I have the best of both worlds. I have lived away from hope on my first project and I will most likely live away from home again. I am earning a regular salary and I am gaining vast work experience and knowledge as well as my Apprenticeship qualifications.

If you are at that point in time when you are deciding on what is best for you and what you want to do when you leave school/college and you are thinking about choosing the ‘best of a bad bunch’ of options. Don’t. Take your time and research what options are out there. Many of the IBM Gap Year Students have decided to join the IBM Gap Year scheme because they are not sure whether they want to go to University or go straight into the working world. You don’t need to rush a decision but you do need to be proactive about making one.

I did not choose an Apprenticeship over going to University. In truthfulness I did not research my options fully and jumped into the world of work hoping I would figure out what I wanted to do. That is why I am telling you to spend some time and look at the options in more detail. I’m sure I would be a lot further to where I wanted to be if I had done that in the first place. Yes I worked in different industries and gained experience but it wasn’t all what I wanted to do.

Like I said earlier, there is no right or wrong path to choose, just choose the one that is best for you.

Happy reading, Josh.

Third time lucky – Joe Barry

Hello again, Its Joe, you remember? The 19 year old that has been on 3 apprenticeships schemes. This is now my second blog in which I will be talking about Apprenticeships & University. I know what you’re thinking, I may be a bit bias towards Apprenticeships given that I’ve been on so many of them, but the truth is there is no right or wrong answer. I believe the decision between Apprenticeship or University is completely depends on the type of learner you are.

In my opinion, University favours, but is not limited to, the more academic learner. Unlike apprenticeships you are in a learning environment where lecturers are there to help and the other students are in the same boat as you (this is not always the case with apprenticeships). More skilled professions, such as a doctor or lawyer have always been associated with University which is one of its biggest selling points. The ‘Uni’ lifestyle is a big part of the decision and I’m sure people that attend Uni would agree.

Apprenticeship schemes are becoming more available for higher skilled jobs as more companies are recognising the benefits of apprentices. Schemes can be used to gage if you like the job you are studying for. After leaving secondary school I joined an electrical apprenticeship through Chichester College, The main reason I joined was because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time and my family believed being an electrician would be a ‘safe’ option from me. After 7 months of explosions and getting zapped I realised (Firstly, that this was NOT a very ‘safe’ option for me) but also that I was terrible electrician and left the scheme. If I went for full time education I would have studied for 3 years and at the end I would have just been a qualified terrible electrician.

Apprenticeships offer a hands on experience in a professional workplace. They allow you to earn while you learn which is a big selling point for apprenticeships, especially when you consider the debts people get into in full time education. This is why practical learners tend to benefit most from apprenticeships. They can also provide an early start for people that know what company and/or profession they want to work for. Instead of providing a head start university can leave people in debt before they have started their career.

Some Apprenticeship have been criticised for take advantage of cheap labour. I know all too well what it feels like to be in this position. Picture this; Joe’s second Apprenticeship, working for a computer repair company in Southampton, For the apprenticeship I spent the first couple of months alternating between college and work. I was on a weekly wage of £100 which I was fine with when I was going to college however when I was no longer going to college and spent every week at work I was travelling to Southampton Monday to Friday out of my own pocket. That nice £100 a week turned into £50 a week (including weekend work) and my lovely smile turned all sour.

What I am trying to say is that Apprenticeships are new and are now starting to get government funding and good schemes are emerging everyday but please take care when choosing a scheme or employer, Make sure you know your rights and know that apprentices can be just as good as graduates.

After my 12months was up in Southampton I was let go and replaced by another apprentice. My Apprenticeships allowed me to get the qualifications I need and the clarity of what career I want to peruse and because of that I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

Overall I have made the decision to be an apprentice based on the fact that I wanted to earn and learn in one place /scheme and also because I realised I am a very hands on learner. Reading textbooks in class for me was useless and never got me anywhere.

If you’re reading this and you also learn best from hands on experience I would strongly suggest that you look into an Apprenticeship. If you learn differently that’s fine, University does work well for people but take the time to find out what style of learning works best for you.