World Youth Skills Day: The Importance of Apprentices

Every year, WorldSkills International and The United Nations recognise the 15th of July as World Youth Skills Day (WYSD). Designed to raise awareness on the importance of technical, vocational education, and training, WYSD works towards reducing unemployment and underemployment among youths across the globe.

Ahead of WYSD 2017, we spoke to Martin Pickering, Apprentice Program Manager at Computacenter, and current apprentice Zach Kirk-Gray, 1st Line Support Analyst, about the importance of promoting vocational training, and the benefits to businesses and apprentices alike.

Why should companies invest in technical and vocational education?

For businesses, vocational education is a way to invest in the company culture from the offset. “With apprentices, it really gives us the opportunity to grow grass-roots, technical staff, using the Computacenter brand. This not only gives young people a foot in the door, but at the same time allows companies to fill the gaps that they are finding in their operations” says Martin.

“Some legacy technologies are slowly becoming difficult to employ against, such as mainframes launched in the 70’s and 80’s. The 40 years of service that these technologies have are now bringing the initial starters of that generation towards the end of their careers, and businesses need to realise the value of bringing young blood back into their organisation.

“Not only this, but the youth of today are digital natives, and are also at a stage in their lives when they are really tuned into learning and are extremely flexible with their talents. It’s here that we can start to use the younger generation to really get stuck in and learn about new technologies, such as cloud adoption, and use them as the next generation in an area that can often be very expensive to train staff in, and difficult for older members of staff to be trained on.”

Zach agrees that learning on the job is one of the best things about his apprenticeship: “It’s great to learn with the technologies. Vocational training is important to me because you really have a hands-on experience all the time, and get a lot of face-time with experts in those fields.

“At college, I was only really studying theory, which I felt wasn’t going to help me later in my life, and I found it difficult to learn just looking at books. Going for a practical apprenticeship has been absolutely brilliant.”

Why is it important to offer this type of training to today’s youth?

“Apprenticeship programs are not just about delivering a group of young adults to a team and getting them to do low skilled work,” continues Martin. “This for me is about creating opportunity.”

“I class the apprenticeship as a golden ticket. At Computacenter, we heavily invest the time of our technology experts into developing our analyst apprentices technically, but we also look at soft skills to develop them in the business world. This is an extremely important part of offering training to today’s youth, as many come straight out of college or school without any experience of working in a formal business environment. Even those who leave university with a degree are still under-experienced in the real-world applications of their skills.

“So, not only is vocational training important for their area of expertise, but also to develop their skills outside of technical delivery so that they are transferrable to any role they might hold in the future.

“My hope is that we create the opportunity for them to look back in years to come and see that Computacenter helped them achieve their goals.

How are apprentices valuable to Computacenter?

Martin can’t help but sing their praises: “Apprentices are fantastic and come with a great attitude towards learning. We spend the first three months of the program training them, and they are able to take in all the information like sponges and can retain more than mature analysts that have been in the business world for years – it’s really amazing. Following this, they can then deliver and fill any gaps in the business with attrition at a lower cost.

“When speaking to customers, talking about investing in apprentices is always good news. My hopes are that more businesses realise the value of apprentices, and that more young people become aware of the benefits of vocational education themselves. Perhaps one day one of our apprentices will become the mentors of new programs to come.”

Finally, Zach agrees with promoting apprenticeships to young people, and why they should start considering this educational path: “Being an apprentice gives you the opportunities in life and trains you up to progress through the company, with hands-on training and mentorship. If I was to give any advice to young people deciding which path to take, I’d tell them to definitely go for an apprenticeship.

“I know people that have gone to university, but when they come out the other side they feel like they don’t have the practical knowledge or business acumen to really go out and get that foot in the door. With an apprenticeship, you’re already on your way.”

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