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Virtual PDM Virtual Partner Development Manager
May 12,2021

How apprentices can help build competitive advantage

In our recent report, A blueprint for Microsoft UK partner competitiveness, we found that adopting a new model of competitiveness could significantly improve the UK economy, boosting it by £48.2 billion. This new model is based around talent, technology and future readiness. Underlying this is the organisation’s relationship with the external ecosystem.

The UK Microsoft partner network is in a great position to succeed in a post-COVID, post-Brexit Britain. Why? They have the perfect fit of empathy, technology expertise, digital skills and the willingness to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. As a result, partners offer high quality products, services and experiences. In fact, our report found that 58 percent of partners expect to increase revenue in 2021.

As talent is a key part in the new model for competitiveness, apprenticeships are a great way for organisations to build key skills within their organisation, while supporting economic growth. Apprenticeships provide partners the opportunity to hire new talent and deliver a customised training programme to meet their future needs. It also provides a route into employment for young people which combine skills and knowledge with relevant experience, closing the UK skills gap.

What does an apprenticeship programme look like?

Firstly, an apprenticeship is a job. The best programmes require individuals to carry out a meaningful role in the organisation. Secondly, is the training. This must be delivered according to one of the approved Standards. These are set out by employers and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. This training must take at least 20 percent of the time of an individual’s job. This is normally done as a day or block release, although there is an increase in online training. Lastly is the final assessment. The End Point Assessment covers the entire programme, although there may be other tests and exams throughout the apprenticeship too.

Apprenticeships also cover a huge range of disciplines and levels. Standards cover Software Developer, Support Technician, Digital Solutions, DevOps, UX and many others. It also covers business skills such as management, HR, project management and sales.

Why hire an apprentice?

Apprenticeships inject new talent into organisations. They bring new ideas, create a growth mindset in the organisation and drive a diverse and inclusive culture. Here are five ways apprentices can help a business:

1.      Right skills for the right jobs

Microsoft works with selected training providers to design apprenticeships to suit Microsoft partners. They cover the most in-demand tech roles, from desktop to cloud, security to data and AI, helpdesk to software developer.

2.      Proven effectiveness

92 percent of apprentices stay with the company they started with and remain more loyal to that business.

3.      Technical Training

As an employer you can work with your apprentice training provider to identify key technical training aligned to the apprentice programme. Apprentices can gain real experience on the job, backed by accredited training and certifications.

4.      Caters to all experiences

These include Higher, Advanced and Degree-level Apprenticeships.

5.      High quality training

Our training providers deliver national scale and quality. This supports an easy and structured entry point into the workplace for those new to working and those looking to change careers.

Support strategic success with apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for companies of any size to address the skills gaps. They won’t provide you with a fully skilled and experienced employee from day one. However, they do provide the opportunity to hire individuals with the attributes and values you want and then train them in the way you want. According to government research, 86 percent of employers say apprenticeships help them build relevant skills, 76 percent say they improve productivity, and 74 percent say they improve quality.

Apprenticeships also benefit from the ability to access funding. For many large employers, 100 percent of the cost of the apprenticeship is covered through the apprenticeship levy. This is charged on an organisation’s payroll bill. However, smaller businesses can also benefit with a 90 percent contribution towards the cost of the apprenticeship. They can work with a larger employer such as Microsoft or even apply for a Levy Transfer, which cover the entire cost of the apprenticeship.

How to build a successful apprenticeship programme

1.      Set clear objectives

Be clear why you want to bring apprentices into your business. For some, it is a straightforward skills programme to enhance existing skills and develop a workforce for the future. For others, there may be a community or CSR agenda, but understanding what the organisational objectives are is critical.

2.      Engage with training providers

Although Apprenticeship Standards are set nationally, each training provider has their own unique approach to customisation and delivery. Meet and discuss your objectives with training providers to understand the many options open to you. It will also help to make sure that you pick the right training provider to support the development of your team.

3.      Ensure internal support

When recruiting, onboarding and working with apprentices, it is worth considering the impact on the existing team. Explaining to all stakeholders what you expect to achieve. Ensure they understand why it is important and what they need to do. It could be supporting the recruitment process, acting as a mentor, or becoming a line manager.

4.      Take time to recruit the right candidate

You won’t be able to recruit in the same way as you do with experienced hires. It’s not a question of recruiting on competency – proven expertise – but on potential. This requires a different approach to experienced hires in terms of job adverts, selection processes and interview techniques. Training providers and other specialists will be able to help with this.

How our partner network can benefit

Microsoft has been leaders in creating the Standards which form the backbone of digital and IT apprenticeships. Additionally, Microsoft learning materials are also embedded in the delivery of the programmes by Microsoft’s learning partners. This ensures that individuals can work towards Microsoft certifications as part of their apprenticeship. Partners can directly benefit from apprenticeships, as they build the right skills needed to help their business succeed.

In partnership with apprenticeship specialist GetMyFirstJob, Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Apprenticeship Connector. This provides partners with the unique opportunity to leverage the Microsoft brand in their apprenticeship attraction and recruitment campaigns. The Connector acts as a focal point for apprenticeship recruitment across Microsoft’s partner and customer base. Additionally, it promotes the massive opportunities in digital careers to schools and school leavers across the country.

The government has also launched a range of incentives to encourage employers to take on apprentices. Whilst these incentives may be beneficial, it is worth taking a considered approach to the implementation of an apprenticeship programme.

Investing in apprenticeships

In a world where the digital skills gap is large, and forecast to grow rapidly, Microsoft’s focus on apprenticeships provides its partners with a unique opportunity. They can equip themselves with the skilled workforce required for the future. However, it’s important to remember apprenticeships are a long-term plan for organisations.

As a proactive approach to talent management, it helps organisations build the skills they need in-house, while helping a person build a career they are passionate about. Not only is this helping your organisation directly, but you’re helping close the digital skills gap, increase opportunity in the tech industry and empowering everyone to reach their potential.

Find out more

Discover the whitepaper: A blueprint to partner competitiveness

Learn more about apprenticeships: Microsoft Apprenticeship Network

Learn how our apprentices are making an impact 

Learn how degree apprentices are preparing for the future of work  

Discover more about Microsoft Training Providers/Learning Partners

Check out the Microsoft Apprenticeship Connector