This month we have been celebrating and championing the power of our apprenticeships and the incredible things our apprentices achieve.
Sometimes it may be easy to assume that apprenticeships are only for school leavers, but that is not the case. At Softcat our programme involves offering upskilling and reskilling apprenticeships to our full existing workforce. Launched in 2020, these apprenticeships offer the opportunity for our Softcatters to gain a broad range of management, technical and operational qualifications.
We know the value of these apprenticeships, but don’t just take our word for it. We caught up with some of our current apprentices as they shared their experiences and myths they want to bust.
What made you want to do a higher-level apprenticeship?
Gemma Berrington, Learning and Development Team Leader: I have ambitious career goals, so I sought out a higher-level apprenticeship to build my confidence in my role and prepare me to perform at a more senior and strategic level within the organisation. Completing this apprenticeship means that I will have a Level 5 L&D CIPD qualification, allowing me to gain more knowledge in my chosen field and to further showcase my skills.
Gemma Winslow, Customer Services Manager: I went to university as I felt like it was the right thing to do at the time, but then dropped out after a term as I very quickly realised it wasn’t for me. Since then, I have always wanted to gain more qualifications, but never really knew which was the right fit. When I found out that Softcat was offering upskilling apprenticeships, I was settled in my career, and finally felt it was the right time to embark on this journey. Having been at Softcat for nine years, this experience has shown me that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been doing your role for, there are always opportunities to develop your skills and gain qualifications.
What has your experience been so far?
Gemma B: I have thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship experience; I love to learn, and it’s definitely given me plenty of learning opportunities! I was surprised at how quickly you progress through the content of each unit and once an assignment is submitted you’re on to the next one straight away. When starting the course, I was also surprised that my cohort was so big, maybe around 80 people going through the same learning together remotely. This has also been one of my highlights, as I have really enjoyed getting to know people, sharing ideas and networking.
What have been your biggest learnings so far?
Gemma B: Most of my learnings so far have centred on how to upskill myself and how to build on the confidence surrounding my team and our learning offering. I have loved learning about current and new L&D practices as it has allowed me to benchmark our learning offering to those externally. I have made sure we are being proactive in adapting to the new world of learning within a remote setting, including how to engage learners in a virtual environment with the launch of a new series of interactive wellbeing sessions which run monthly. I have also enjoyed taking a deep dive into how we can use data and evaluations to support what learning is required, and looking into the benefits of a blended digital solution to improve engagement and learning transfers; all tactics that I have used when building our new induction proposal for US starters.
Gemma W: Although I may have only completed one month worth of course work so far, it has already expanded my thinking and provided so much additional content to share with my team and others around me. Doing this apprenticeship has been so helpful as runs so smoothly alongside my day-to-day allowing me to put my learnings into practice.
How has Softcat supported you throughout this journey?
Gemma B: I am extremely thankful to all the support Softcat has provided me throughout my apprenticeship. My manager, Heather, has provided invaluable support, providing me with the opportunities, projects and feedback to pinpoint where I need to develop certain skills. My 20% off the job time to focus on my apprenticeship has been fully protected and I couldn’t have completed my qualification without this dedicated time. Lois, our Apprenticeship Lead, has also been on hand to answer my questions and take anything back to the training provider.
Gemma W: Softcat has been very supportive. From the start, they believed in me and in my abilities to complete this programme. My manager, SJ, has also been amazing, as within a couple of days of me mentioning this was something I was interested in, she had already arranged a meeting with our Apprenticeship Lead. SJ has since joined regular calls with my course leader and is always thinking of new ways of how I can demonstrate what I have learnt.
What advice would you give to anyone considering doing this?
Gemma B: There is a huge amount of work involved and it’s a huge investment from Softcat, so you need to be fully committed and driven to put in the effort. You get back what you put in, so make sure you make the most of the opportunity. I have really enjoyed the challenge and upon reflecting on the last 12 months, I am so proud of what I have achieved and where I am in my role as a result of doing this.
Gemma W: Do it! You’re never too old to continue with your education and it’s an amazing opportunity to do so alongside your role. However, before you start make sure it is something you 100% want and that you are fully committed.