Based in Yorkshire, Phoenix Software is a Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Service Provider (AEMSP) transforming services across the public sector, serving government, healthcare, police, education, charities and housing associations, and specialising in licensing, cloud transformation, infrastructure solutions and software asset management.
As an experienced Microsoft Learning Partner ourselves, we have had the pleasure of working closely with the team at Phoenix providing apprenticeship recruitment, training and programme management to support their talent acquisition and growth plans for several years now.
This year National Apprentice Week (8-14 Feb) encourages businesses and individuals to ‘Build the future’. The team at Phoenix are a great example of a forward-thinking company doing just that by proactively providing tech-led career opportunities for local young people to succession plan, drive innovation and effectively support their growth plans.
We recently caught up with some of the management team at Phoenix to gain their thoughts about why conducting an apprenticeship programme has been such an integral part of their successful growth from having just a handful of managed service customers to now servicing over 110.
Why did you decide, as an organisation, to put time and investment into employing apprentices straight out of school or college?
Richard Barwick (Head of Service Delivery) explained, “We used to be a much smaller team when I started a few years ago. We would each wear several hats, but were rapidly getting swamped due to the volume of enquiries from customers requiring troubleshooting that those manning the helpdesk did not have the skills to support.”
As a former apprentice himself, Richard knew firsthand the benefits of employing young apprentices that are keen to learn more about IT and gain real work experience. The idea being that the apprentices could provide a first line of support solution to customers while freeing up the more experienced consultants to work on more complex activities.
Richard said, “We took on our first two apprentices back in September 2017 at the same time to bounce off each other and work together. They both did a great job, skilling up and learning more and more and are both still with the company now – one has recently been promoted to team leader. It’s worked out really well for us. That small team of four is now a team of 18 and the apprentices have really contributed to that organic growth.”
At Intequal we regularly see the benefits of our clients adopting a rolling programme of training and development for new talent. Richard described this process as being like a “production chain of training people up, gaining knowledge and skills from those ahead of them who have completed their apprenticeships, as well as working alongside other more experienced professionals on the team.”
How else does the business benefit from having apprentices?
Richard told us, “Despite our growth there is still a real family feel to the business. We are a customer service centric business, so keeping customers happy is essential as our managed service support activities have increased. All apprentices have customer service mentality drilled in from day one. In IT roles, people can sometimes be a bit robotic preferring the tech to the people contact, but many of our staff are home grown so they appreciate the importance we place on customer contact from day one. He added, “It’s interesting to recruit for apprentice roles as school/college leavers have little or no real-world experience so we look for the character, attitude and enthusiasm they are putting across.”
Emma Taylor (Training & Development Manager) added, “Another benefit of taking on apprentices is that the training is mapped out for these new employees which saves a lot of time and effort for managers. Supported by Intequal as their training provider, the apprentice has a structured process of learning new skills and adapting in practice rather than their line manager having to create a training plan themselves. The line manager can focus then on teaching our company nuances, culture and our customer and sector characteristics and needs.”
Supporting local talent has real business benefits
“Our ethos is about generating, nurturing and retaining home grown talent,” Emma continued, “so we ensure that we effectively support new starters throughout their apprenticeship and then subsequently enable them to work their way up by providing next level career opportunities. Based in a market town outside of York, finding talent can be difficult. To find someone fresh from school/college works well for us.”
Emma said, “It’s great to see our young starters grow in confidence and maturity during their apprenticeship with us too. Three of our recently qualified apprentices have gained promotions, either moving into sales roles or as team leaders.”
What opportunities does Phoenix offer to an aspiring apprentice?
Thomas Siron (Service Desk Manager) explained, “The first tier role, where the apprentice begins, provides a rich environment to gain lots of early career experience. Managed service customers all have different estates, some using legacy technology and some rapidly changing and evolving to adapt to today’s use of technology. The apprentice acquires new skills during their training, while applying their knowledge to troubleshoot differing customer support needs.”
How have the apprentices coped continuing their programme through the pandemic lockdown?
Richard told us that they been quite fortunate with timings, he said “Two of the most recent apprentices started last September so they had done 6-7 months, knew what was expected, were very reliable and are continuing their combined studies and work duties from home – and doing a really good job.”
Richard summed up our discussion by saying, “Our experience with Intequal has been nothing but positive – echoed by all the apprentices who have been supported through their programmes. Nick Tones (Intequal’s Pathway Planner), has been fantastic, has created a really good rapport and they all speak very highly of him.”
A message from Intequal
“Right from the very start it was evident that the team at Phoenix had the correct mindset for taking on apprentices. The early conversations were not just about the benefits to the business, it was about the opportunities they wanted to offer young people looking for a career in IT. It was about the journey they wanted to take them on, and to help them develop”.