In the first of a new series of articles and interviews looking at new routes into consulting, the MCA has talked with Wesley Manta, an apprentice at IBM Global Business Services.
What persuaded you to go for the Apprenticeship route into work?
After completing my A Levels, I applied to go to University and for an Apprenticeship scheme at IBM. At first, I wasn’t aware of what the apprenticeship could offer me, but the application helped me find out more about the scheme and IBM. The opportunity to gain life experience, working with some of the finest people in technology and being paid to do so, proved to be the more appealing option.
Can you tell us about the training opportunities you’ve experienced? Have you been able to balance the training and learning with the demands of working for a busy organisation like IBM?
As a new employee at IBM, the first training I experienced was their extensive internal training process. One of my peers was working on a testing product that was very specific to the client, and he got to spend 3 weeks in Las Vegas completing training on that application, all of which was paid for by IBM. As you move forward in the organisation and decide what area you would like to specialise in, IBM are very supportive and offer appropriate training to support your next steps. IBM also provide the opportunity to get trained by other professionals within the organisation through our internal training programme, or also go out to our external training providers and get industry standard training. In terms of balancing training and apprenticeship work, IBM is extremely understanding that at this early stage in our careers, we should be focusing on developing our skills rather than just delivering value to the client. IBM offer time for apprentices to complete their work, and for those apprentices doing degree programmes they are allowed time off in their working week to complete their training and work.
Have you felt that clients and your colleagues are supportive? How do they treat you?
In a lot of cases, colleagues may not be familiar with the new apprenticeship structure so we can sometimes get seen as graduates. Clients have a similar attitude, and will often just assume we are young professionals. Not many will ask as the standard of work is at a high level.
How do you get along with the graduate entry recruits? Is there any rivalry there?
I have many friends within and outside of IBM who are graduates and am more than happy to work with them. All the apprentices and graduates I know work side-by-side as professionals, whilst treating one another as equals.
What should government and employers be doing more to promote Apprenticeships and help everyone understand their value?
Following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and the Institute of Apprentices, government seem to be doing a lot more to push apprenticeships forward and support the schemes. I think there needs to be a focus on connecting with parents, guardians and schools to help them understand the evolving world of apprenticeships and the benefits they bring. Moving forward, I think apprenticeships will regarded as highly as a degree. Channelling this through to the right people will improve the support that school leavers receive when making their decisions.
Do you think that Apprenticeships could open up consulting to young people who otherwise wouldn’t think of it as a possible career?
Only a small minority of people in my experience know what career they want to choose straight after completing their A Levels. People sometimes choose to go to university, and then later down the line may realise they are not necessarily interested in the subject they chose. With the apprenticeship programme, you have the benefit of being able to experience a variety of roles in the real world of work. The apprenticeship scheme allowed me to develop my skills and helped me realise what my strengths were. Apprenticeships are not entirely focussed on academic ability, so they open up opportunities for people who may not see university as an option. Having apprentices on board, brings a diverse range of skills and opinions, and often bring in people with a particularly creative, entrepreneurial approach.