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Higher Level Apprenticeships - Your secret superpower

  • Career Encode’s Camilla Long explains why apprenticeships are the future of NI’s tech sector

    Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLAs) are now widely recognised within technology circles in Northern Ireland.

    If you’re Site Lead, Head of Talent or Senior Manager within a technology firm, you’ll have considered the HLA as an alternative recruitment channel. If you’re Head of IT driving digital transformation within your company, it’s highly likely you have an Apprentice on your team already. HLAs are a source of motivated talent, digital natives with new ideas and new approaches to offer. But there’s more to a Higher Level Apprenticeship than a talent recruitment opportunity.

    The Higher Level Apprentice has turned out to be the superpower that has kept those around them on board and helped them to feel connected and engaged during the Covid19 crisis. 

    As the world reacted to social distancing requirements, the technology industry powered everyone else’s economic activity and kept families, friends and communities connected. And those in the tech industry have been Working From Home. This mass shift out of bright, well-equipped offices to spare bedrooms, kitchen tables and even ironing boards had the potential to devastate productivity.

    But the industry has responded, and most IT leaders have reported an increase in productivity since lockdown.   Unsurprisingly, it has been the Apprentices and their Gen Z colleagues that have inspired team members to embrace new ways of working. Of having a Higher Level Apprentice on the team, Anna Macaulay, office manager at Spatialest in Coleraine said, “Working with Zac brought my stress levels down as we all had to suddenly get to grips with the shift to working from home. He found it easy and we followed his lead.”

    Events of the last six months have put the importance of coaching, mentoring and management skills into sharp relief. The research shows that if your people feel part of a team they are more than twice as likely to be fully engaged at work. Twice as likely! And that’s where your Higher Level Apprentices can have an impact beyond their own skills and work ethic. 

    Bringing junior team members into your company shines a spotlight on the coaching culture within your teams and how it creates the psychological safety that’s essential for growth and learning. 

    Seamus Cushley, VP of Research & Development for e-commerce giant Bazaarvoice says, “Coaching and mentoring skills are key to building a learning organisation.  Working with Higher Level Apprentices allows everyone in the team to start developing those skills no matter what stage of their career.”

    As the world looks ahead to learn to live with Covid, the technology industry will be there to support and sustain other parts of society.  But the skills mismatch remains an issue for tech leaders – it’s a life’s work to find people with the right skills and encourage a learning culture. So, finding new approaches will be key. And in this new world, Apprentices can be the hidden superpower that every company needs to grow their own skills and unlock the potential of their teams.

    This article first appeared in the 'Future Tech' edition of the Sync NI magazine and it can be found here.

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