Business Benefits of Apprenticeships – Create IT

Create IT are a managed service provider offering IT support and solutions to a variety of different businesses from small accountancy firms to large manufacturers and telecoms giants. Based in the South East region in Newbury, Berkshire, they run a successful early careers program utilising IT apprenticeships to support their ongoing local talent acquisition and succession planning activity. 

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We recently caught up with Technical Director, Andrew Smith to understand more about why his company chose to offer apprenticeship opportunities, how his company benefitted from training such raw talent, and how soon could you realistically achieve a return on this kind of talent acquisition and training investment in his experience?

Andrew told us, “We started Create IT in June 2010 and shortly after a young lady from a local college approached us saying she was studying an IT course and would like to gain some part-time experience on the days she did not attend college. We were impressed that someone had the willingness to get into the IT field and could envisage the benefits of having someone learn our processes/customers whilst learning new skills so we offered her a position in the company. This appointment worked well for us and has led us into taking on more Infrastructure Technician apprentices ever since.

Mostly our apprentices work on the helpdesk when they start tackling issues like ‘my printer isn’t working’, the ‘server is down’ etc. They form our first-tier team who are then supported by a senior team for more complex queries. These apprentices would spend most of the day on the phone or answering emails so there is a lot of communication required.

In our interview process we purposely look for someone who has had some experience of dealing with customers and clearly has an interest in technology. Skills and knowledge we feel can be taught through studies, on the job from learning, and shadowing their mentor on the helpdesk.

We asked Andrew how lockdown had affected this hands-on activity. He told us, “It has been slightly different over recent months. During the pandemic we have not furloughed any staff and have remained consistently busy. At the start of lock down it was very busy to get people with the right equipment to enable them to work from home. In an ideal world being in the workplace does make communication a bit more instant when staff colleagues are together in the same room. You hear things on the phone in the background and can instantly mentor by recognising a customer’s problem by listening to a conversation. However, the apprentices, like the business, have adapted and together continue to work effectively.

What advice would you give a company thinking about taking on an apprentice?

We asked Andrew what his advice would be to a company thinking about hiring an apprentice in their IT/digital teams. Andrew said, “If you have not had an apprentice this is very different to just hiring a position. There is a certain amount of effort you need to put in to support development but equally you get rewarded very quickly if you pick the right person. You are essentially gaining a curious open mind with a willingness to learn and an ability to absorb knowledge rapidly. Once apprentices become skilled and trained up in your business processes and become familiar with your customers then they are then very effective at what they do and you gain a relatively quick return on talent and training investment.  

How else does the business benefit from having apprentices working alongside more experienced staff?

Andrew told us, “Enrique has just recently completed his apprenticeship gaining a distinction. He is a great example of an individual that is willing to learn and who is naturally inquisitive, questioning senior colleagues about the solutions they apply. Our business has directly benefitted from apprentices challenging our thinking. Their ideas have helped us improve productivity in areas like making our internal systems more streamlined, so information is quicker and easier to find. Being digital natives, our apprentices naturally look for the straighter route to achieving an action and look to technology to help them get there.”

How does your company maximise on the investment of an apprentice?

Andrew said “Apprentices combining studying with on the job training quickly gain real-world skills and end up being a lot more value to us than those spending 3-4 years coming out of university with the skills but no real-world knowledge.”

He explained that at Create IT they look to provide a permanent role after the apprenticeship is completed. The benefits being that the qualified apprentice after just over a year or so now knows a lot about the business. Andrew said, “It takes quite a while to learn each customer and internal systems so where possible we look to recruit up internally first and then recruit more apprentices to back-fill that career-entry level role.”

“Enrique has just recently completed his apprenticeship gaining a distinction. He is a great example of an individual that is willing to learn and who is naturally inquisitive, questioning senior colleagues about the solutions they apply. Our business has directly benefitted from apprentices challenging our thinking. Their ideas have helped us improve productivity in areas like making our internal systems more streamlined, so information is quicker and easier to find. Being digital natives, our apprentices naturally look for the straighter route to achieving an action and look to technology to help them get there.”

Andrew Smith

Technical Director, CreateIT

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