Report: Inside the new Digital IT Apprenticeships

January 2018

Young women using techIf progress is to be made, and new technology built, the IT skills gap needs to be met. Grant Powell AMBCS RITTech explores the new Digital IT Apprenticeship, revealing how it can help young people and business prepare for tomorrow.

We are all familiar with the idea that developing IT capability within an organisation starts with developing your people. Growing a culture, growing a mindset - settings standards and values within an organisation, and keeping staff feeling motivated and rewarded for their efforts are key to ensuring productivity in a buzzing, thriving, positive environment.

The next generation of IT professionals are now leaving school, leaving college, eager to step on to the first rung of the career ladder that will lead them towards the great heights of becoming a fully-fledged IT professional. IT apprenticeships are a great way to offer them the training and guidance that they need in return for their creativity, their fresh ideas and their enthusiasm - their desire to better themselves, and your organisation.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a real job and is designed for people of all ages who want to earn while they learn, gain skills and boost their knowledge. Apprentices generally work for around 30 hours per week and also experience training and develop their transferable skills. Most training is delivered on the job and sees the apprentice work with a mentor.

A Digital IT Apprenticeship lasts for a minimum of 13 months - this incudes training and assessments. Salaries for apprentices rise from £3.50 an hour at 16 to £7.20 - though it may be more within the IT industry.

What part is BCS playing in the scheme?

BCS is a Registered Apprenticeship Assessment Organisation (RAAO) responsible for carrying out an independent End Point Assessment (EPA) on a range of the new Digital IT Apprenticeships.

The Digital IT Apprenticeship Standards have been created by groups of employers, through the government’s trailblazer process. These standards are being rolled out to replace the current apprenticeship frameworks.

These apprenticeship standards have been designed to respond to employers’ needs, to ensure that the apprenticeships are of a high quality, are rigorous and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for a specific job role.

Apprentices under the new standards are required to undergo an independent End-Point-Assessment. Once the EPA is completed, apprentices will be graded with a pass, merit or a distinction.

What can employers hope to gain?

By embracing Digital IT Apprenticeships, employers can recruit and develop their own digital talent and also build a qualified workforce. Such an approach should enable employers to improve staff retention and, ultimately, help their business to grow.

Apprenticeships are also a great way to attract new and enthusiastic people - people who bring new ideas into your business. The new scheme replaces the out-going apprenticeships framework.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

Employers with a UK payroll of over £3m pay a 0.5% levy deducted via PAYE. Monthly levy deductions are made in the named employer’s account and are paid into the new Digital Apprenticeship Service.

The payments are stored and transferred via a digital voucher that can only be spent against an approved apprenticeship framework or standard that is delivered by an approved training provider. Each monthly deduction has a 24 months’ expiry date.

Is the levy just another tax on employers?

No. It’s better to think of the ley as an investment. By making use of the Digital IT Apprenticeship scheme, employers can create an apprenticeship that is tailored to specific job roles. And, as your business changes and grows, your apprenticeships can too.

How big is the scheme?

As we went to press, BCS reached the milestone of 2,000 apprentice registrations and we are now offering 13 Digital IT Apprenticeship Standards.

As the first to complete an Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment for the new Digital IT Standards in England, we have a lot to celebrate.

Along with 2000 apprentice registrations across ten of the apprenticeship standards, we have 56 approved apprenticeship providers and more close to accreditation.

There is a new dedicated end-point assessment page at www.bcs.org/apprenticeships. It supports our apprenticeship community with the provision of information that they need to help them understand the new changes, and their role in the provision of apprenticeship delivery.

The first apprentice for the new Digital IT Apprenticeship

Liverpool-based Alex Burns is the first person in England to complete the new BCS Apprenticeship Standard Level 4 in Network Engineering, and has done it with style, by gaining a distinction.

He joined 3aaa Apprenticeship’s Liverpool academy over a year ago, where he completed his IT Level 3 Apprenticeship. Alex then became one of first apprentices to enrol on the new Network Engineer Apprenticeship Standard.

Alex’s employer Stack Interconnect, part of the Liverpool-based company, Stack Group, specialise in the provision of IT services and management, providing a comprehensive range of services including all aspects of cloud, security, virtualisation, data services, unified communications and infrastructure.

Whilst on his Network Engineer Apprenticeship, Alex worked on network designs, copper cabling, fibre optics, Wi-Fi, lasers, CCTV and radio bridges, learning the technical skills during his academy days to assist him in his day-to-day activities within the workplace.

Mark Darnell, Technical Sales and Support Manager of the Stack Interconnect division commented on Alex’s outstanding achievement: ‘I have seen Alex’s character, confidence and ability grow vastly over the course of his apprenticeship. His growing abilities have meant that he is becoming an ever increasingly important member of my network engineering team. Alex is an example to all that hard work really does pay off. It is also great kudos to Alex and Stack Interconnect, that he is the very first Network Engineer Apprentice to complete in the country.’

John Pritchard, Head of Apprenticeships, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, commented: ‘BCS is proud to have completed the first End-Point Assessment in Network Engineer Level 4 and to see Alex gain a distinction. It was good to see his passion and enthusiasm for his role, the scope of tasks and trust his employer has invested in him.

Alex should be very proud of his achievements and for becoming the first digital apprentice to complete with BCS. 3aaa should also be commended for their support of Alex and for training him to achieve such a high standard. A big thank you to all involved and I wish Alex all the best for the future.’

Alex said: ‘Stack Interconnect has been a great place for me to learn everything I needed to know, to not only succeed within my apprenticeship, but in building a career for myself. With a fantastic and supportive environment, I have been able to rapidly learn all of the relevant skills and technologies I have needed to succeed and continue to develop.’

‘I really enjoyed the programme and learnt a great deal of knowledge from it. The 3aaa Academy was a great platform for me to complete the training and become the best at my job that I could possibly be.’

Apprenticeships, which are designed through the trailblazer group of employers, for employers, reinforce the working environment within a business and support growth for not only the business and its operations, but individual employees, giving them the opportunity to excel and progress their careers.

Peter Marples, 3aaa Group Chief Executive added: ‘We are delighted that Alex is the first successful Network Engineer Level IV Apprentice in the country. This is down to the hard work of Alex, his employer Stack Interconnect and the team here at 3AAA in Liverpool who have all worked as a partnership to support Alex. The new Apprenticeship Standards are much more stretching than the old frameworks and Alex is justifiably proud of his achievement and we will be celebrating with him over the next few days.’

Image: iStock.com/AleksandarNakic