Tag Archives: university

Why I chose an apprenticeship with IBM – Sarah Naylor

My name is Sarah Naylor and I have just recently embarked on my career path with IBM upon the completion of my A-Levels in July 2016 as 1 in 3 of the first HR apprentices in the company.

I first heard about the IBM apprenticeship when my school took a visit to the Hursley site in Winchester to shadow some of the apprentices. Before this visit, I had every intention of going to university as most people seemed to think this is the only option for those who have just completed A-Levels. For me, I had no idea what I wanted to do and was very open to exploring the different options available to me after I had finished school. After having a great few days visiting IBM I was set that the apprenticeship route was right for me and the following February when applications for a Business Specialist Apprenticeship opened I was quick to apply.

The application process happened quite quickly for me. I was still in shock that I had passed the IPAT test (maths is not my forte) when I heard my assessment centre was soon to follow. The assessment centre experience itself was one I will never forget. It was both nerve-racking and exciting as early one morning in June I travelled up to the Southbank site in London where I found myself sat in a silent waiting room amongst many other young but ambitious individuals like myself. I felt as though any minute we were getting called into the boardroom of ‘The Apprentice’ with the tense atmosphere and nervousness that surrounded the room. Little did I know a few hours later we would all be chatting away and sharing stories as though that morning had never happened.

I am currently in my first of three rotations working as the UK Compensation Specialist Support which has really thrown me into the deep end as I started just as the yearly salary cycle was due to begin. My team has been incredibly supportive and I always look forward to the challenges each new day brings.

Although I am starting to notice my friends at home slowly disappear to University I do not feel I am missing out on any experiences. I believe there are pro’s and con’s to both and it really does depend on the individual and what is best for them. I would recommend the IBM apprenticeship to anyone who is not sure university is for them, is ready to leave full-time education, wants to earn whilst they learn, be in a business environment where they can gain valuable work experience and most importantly those looking for an excellent support network as they start to embark on their first major career journey.


Sarah Naylor.


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

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 is the IBM Apprenticeship? – Avtar

University isn’t always the choice for people studying A-Levels. Some people prefer a hands on learning style, and some do not see university as the only choice for further education.
IBM offer an Apprenticeship scheme and this blog explains what the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme is.

So what is the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme?
The IBM Apprenticeship Scheme is an apprenticeship which is 3 years of training, before becoming an permanent IBMer. The aim of the Apprenticeship is to help you obtain the Advanced Apprenticeship for IT Professionals qualification as well as giving you experience in business and technical areas. The IBM Apprenticeship scheme is an alternative option for university and is considered one of the best apprenticeship schemes in the UK, which is proven by the awards that our apprenticeship scheme has won.

What do you do in the 3 years?
During the three years, you have a chance to complete other training courses such as ITIL, Prince 2 and more. You get great exposure to working with large clients, and this will increase your experience in the working world. The experience that you get from being an IBMer is one of the best experiences to have, and having IBM on your CV is also a great thing!

After the 3 years what happens?
At IBM, you are considered as a permanent employee, as soon as you join the company. After the completion of your Apprenticeship, you still have your job and you are still employed with IBM.

What type of Apprenticeship Schemes do you offer?
IBM have two roles within the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme. These are the Business Solution Specialist, and the Technical Solutions Specialist. This allows you to start your apprenticeship in either a business or technical role.

Am you restricted to the clients that you can work with?
Nope, not at all! You are able to work with many different clients and you are classed the same as other employees when working at client sites. The clients that you can work with, are within a wide industry. For example, we have clients within the medical industry, hardware industry, oil and gas industry as well as many more! You are not restricted to the clients that you can work for.

What benefits do you get?
A salary of £15,000
Company Pension
Travel Insurance
IBM Reward
25 days holiday

If you would like to know more about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, feel free to leave a comment, tweet me @AvtarMarway, or message me on LinkedIn!

This will be my last blog for the year, so have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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

Making the choice – Ryan McManus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other tips:

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

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