Training specialists at Intequal have helped a Sussex computing firm to address a workforce skills gap thanks to an innovative apprenticeship programme.

Finding the right apprentices for the job

Astec Computing, which is based in East Sussex, has been a leading provider of IT managed services and solutions to the business and education sector for the past 25 years.

Within the company, there is a strong emphasis on developing young talent, staff training and long-term progression. This allows Astec to stay ahead of the game in a fast-moving and rapidly changing IT industry.

However, in the past few years there has been a skills shortage in this sector and the local area in which Astec is based. “To grow the business, we need to continue to recruit people with the right technical and interpersonal skills”, explains Phil Astell, Astec’s Managing Director. “But this has been a challenge at times.”

The challenge

Astec decided to take on apprentices as part of its long-term strategy to address this problem. Over the past two years, the company has worked with five apprentices.

“We originally handled the recruitment ourselves – advertising the vacancy and interviewing, as we would for any member of staff”, explains Phil. “But, this was very time consuming and disruptive to our work. It also limited the number of apprentices we could take on.

The solution

Intequal stepped in to provide the professional recruitment and training support Astec needed. Initially, Intequal supported Astec with the final selection. But, more recently, Russell Collins, Intequal’s Principal Consultant, and his team have managed the whole process, advertising the post and then assessing responses to select the best candidates.

“We recognise that Intequal has the expertise, professional reach and the capabilities to find us the best candidates”, explains Phil. “Russell has done a great job of profiling candidates for us to review. It has been very much a collaborative process.

“We are incredibly selective with the apprenticeship programme”, says Phil.

“Personality is a critical factor. As a company, we pride ourselves on being customer focused. So, we need people with the right technical aptitudes and the right interpersonal skills to work with our customers. All credit to Intequal for meeting our high standards and adapting to our requirements.”

Top-class training

During the apprenticeships, Intequal has also managed and delivered the formal training aspects.

“Our apprentices have completed all their training online in the workplace, with Skype for Business tutorials”, explains Phil. “This has provided great flexibility. No time has been lost in travelling to training sessions and workplace disruption has been kept to a minimum.

“Furthermore, our apprentices have gained well-respected Microsoft qualifications, which they have put to immediate, practical use in the workplace.

“Our customers expect Microsoft Service Provider level of expertise”, comments Phil, “and Intequal training ensures our team members have the latest skills.”

The Intequal team has kept in constant contact with Astec throughout the apprenticeship programme.

“We’ve had regular reviews, which have been very helpful”, explains Phil. “Russell and his team have assessed progress independently of us – which has kept us on track to achieve our training objectives.”

The outcome

With Intequal’s help, Astec has successfully filled a skills gap. “Through this programme, we’ve been able to train up young apprentices at an early stage of their career according to our business needs. As a result, we’ve got people with skills that exactly match our need”, says Phil.­­

“We’ve recently taken on another apprentice and plan to continue with this programme in the long term”, he adds. “This will ensure our workforce continues to have the right skills. Apprenticeships are our building blocks for the future.

“Intequal has made a very important contribution to this process and we’re looking forward to working with Russell and his team in the future.”

About Intequal

Intequal is a Microsoft Apprenticeship Programme Provider delivering framework apprenticeships since Oct 2013 & new standards since Mar 2016. The senior management team (4 people) has over 40 years’ experience managing employer led apprenticeships in various organisations. Intequal has delivered +400 framework apprenticeships for 160 employers with a completion rate of 89.5%.

Intequal’s repeat business with employers is at 43% and 86% of Intequal’s clients are SMEs. Its programmes have been developed using input and feedback from customers. Intequal has an innovative delivery model via online, instructor-led/ blended classroom sessions giving countrywide reach minimising workplace disruption for both employer and apprentice. All apprentices are supported throughout their apprenticeship to ensure successful completion.

Intequal apprenticeships are part of a wider Microsoft programme to promote IT and digital apprenticeships across the UK. Intequal is a Microsoft Learning Partner (Silver) & CompTIA Partner – demonstrating its technical capabilities, strengths and quality of delivery.

To find out more about Intequal, go to www.intequal.co.uk or contact Steve Payne (steve.payne@intequal.co.uk)