As a way of diversifying talent, filling skills gaps and keeping hold of your best employees, IT apprenticeship programmes can be highly beneficial. With technology continuing to develop at pace, apprenticeships are an effective means of finding fresh talent who are ready and willing to develop new skills.
So how can you make sure you, your employees and the business as a whole reaps the rewards of an IT apprenticeship programme? You have the choice to partner with a third party or create your own programme, but ultimately, the results should be the same: you’ll provide applicants with real-life work experience, tailored training and unique learning opportunities.
If you’re an IT manager or tech leader responsible for recruitment and onboarding, then here we’ll show you the steps to take to make your IT apprenticeships as successful as possible.
Figure out why you want to take on apprentices
Before you get the word out about your apprenticeship programme, knowing why you need apprentices and what you aim to achieve through the programme is crucial. Perhaps it’s to create a new team for the future or to address short-term skills gaps. Either way, your goals need to be set out clearly and communicated to senior management.
Doing so makes it easier to recruit the right candidates as well as creating a benchmark that you can then use to evaluate the success of the apprenticeship programme once it’s concluded.
Take time to source the right candidates
It should go without saying that candidate selection is an important part of your programme. Remember, the candidates you choose will ideally go on to become full-time employees, so you should look for people who have what it takes to see the programme through to the end, and then go on to have a career with the company.
By taking your time and using a tailored approach, you’ll ensure optimal suitability, prevent drop-outs, and better cater to the skills and abilities of your candidates.
So, how can you ensure candidates are the right fit for your programme? From the outset, you should have a clear understanding of their current motivations and goals by asking insightful questions from the get-go.
It might take time, but a more meticulous approach to candidate selection ensures your choices stand a greater chance of completing the programme and creating greater value for themselves and the business.
Allow networks and communities to flourish
Often, candidates on apprenticeships won’t be familiar with the IT industry. When the programme begins, you should endeavour to create a sense of community, so that your apprentices feel supported and welcome.
You might want to pair your new people with existing employees who took part in the scheme a few years earlier. This gives apprentices someone to talk to should they need questions answering that are unique to the programme.
When apprentices each have a “buddy” or mentor to inspire them, it can have a powerful effect on how their career progresses. The sense of community they create allows them to make further connections and lets their professional networks flourish as a result, which can provide all kinds of different opportunities in the future.
Emphasise the importance of soft skills
Your apprentices will get to grips with a range of technical skills over the course of the programme. But as a leader, teaching them a range of soft skills gives them a chance to get comfortable within a more corporate workplace.
An apprenticeship is an exciting opportunity, but candidates may be understandably nervous. By emphasising the importance of soft skills, they’ll have a chance to strengthen their technical knowledge with things like teamwork, written and verbal communication, and critical thinking. The combination of such elements can give candidates a powerful head-start in their careers.
Support them through the process
Providing practical support and guidance to an apprentice gives them the chance to settle in, grow and develop during the programme’s duration, and contribute to overall company success. When supporting them, try to include the following:
- Give them clear expectations and provide a safe, supportive environment to learn and develop
- Encourage them to seek regular feedback so they can assess their own performance
- Upskill their line managers so they can use the necessary coaching methods to improve candidates’ performance
- Put in place a learning mentor to create a more proactive environment where eagerness, motivation and commitment are frequently demonstrated
Create opportunities for meaningful work
Compared to internships, one of the bigger benefits of apprenticeships is that they’re long enough for candidates to work on a variety of meaningful and valuable projects. And it’s a benefit that goes both ways.
Not only will candidates get paid while being trained in real-life work scenarios, but the company also reaps the reward of having a full-time worker trained on specific skills who can then become a part of the IT department when the apprenticeship is over.
So, rather than involving your candidates in the grunt work that an intern might carry out, engage them in meaningful work early. This allows them to get involved with hands-on experiences that allow them to learn on the job. The key is to make sure they’re challenged without being overwhelmed.
By letting them work on projects and assignments, it gives candidates the chance to work out where they’d like to go in their career, post-apprenticeship. When candidates feel empowered to carve their own path, rather than being told what to pursue, it helps them “own” the apprenticeship experience.
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