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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.”

Arise the new Cisco. Why the innovators dilemma has become the “innovation imperative”.

After a few silent months away from from philosophical scribbling about market, societal and technology based change, something has caused me to reach again for my pen (“what pen I hear you say”, stay with me on this one).

In the digital age, “do nothing” delivers the worst possible outcome – “nothing”. Does this mean a relentless march forward ideally at “digital” speed is the order of the day – to a degree, yes but not without thought or calibration. Harvard’s, Clayton Christensen formulated a memorable principle in his seminar book the Innovators Dilemma in 1997, “An organization’s capabilities define its disabilities”. Put simply, an organisation should rightly be validated for the actionable elements it delivers over pomp, history or rhetoric.

Surely this is obvious stuff, but changing focus, reinventing successful products or undertaking “blank sheet of paper” style development is time consuming, challenging, provides no guarantee of success and is downright risky. With the result, many crank the handle on the “same old way”, turning the handle faster as competition, market saturation and reducing income signposts the race may be close to being run. But that isn’t the only way, “do nothing” or “do the same something” whilst safe is a sure-fire way of ensuring the only future ahead is one as “yesterday’s great”. As the digital age drives our personal and business lives forward pressing reset on everything safe and known at a speed we can barely consume (much less digest), the winners will be those who manage to maintain a level of effective competitiveness within existing markets whilst guiding existing customers and new prospects to take advantage of adjacent or original innovations that unlock reliable and previous unforeseen benefits.

I was compelled to scribble this post by a recent and potentially market defining strategic announcement from Cisco. As the campus and datacentre network infrastructure market leader by some magnitude, “do nothing” for Cisco could still have some mileage. By using superior purchasing power to develop products at market prices others may struggle to match profitably or via customer loyalty plays to retain and maximise existing advocates, Cisco could continue to maintain a slightly better version of “the good old way”. Or they could flip script with a fundamental reframe of everything known, building on existing legacy value, but enhanced for the future via insight and innovation – that’s what Cisco has done. Cisco DNA (Digital Network Architecture) and SDA (Software Defined Access) is so new in the market, the ink has barely dried but initial observations point to a technical philosophy that will redefine strategic, functional, operational and technology based customer outcomes.

The ability to deliver local and in time wide area secure network connectivity, that self-configures, is rich with relevant user or network insight, is policy drive, self-heals, is adaptive, abstracts complexity, is API open, secure by design, enhanced by automation reads like a CIO wish list to Santa. But this is just a selection of announced initial release functionality inherent within the DNA and SDA footprint from Cisco. It leaves me encouraged, inspired and enthused, not because it signals a one vendor world of customer benefits as that equally delivers the fear of “lock in”, but based on the potential for a vendor and market open platform that will bring together co existing and competing vendors integrated by APIs to deliver an autonomic secure network layer to underpin digital transformation.

Forget dilemmas, it’s time for the “innovation imperative”. As Cisco reinvents itself to guide both customers and the industry forward, the game changes for everyone. Competitors will be compelled to respond fuelled by their own innovation imperative, partners inspired to retool and reskill to service & support the new normal and lastly customers whilst initially confused will soon be engulfed by a wave of excitement that old problems may soon be eliminated by new solutions.

I’m not just a Cisco fan, I’m also seeing mind blowing innovation from the top ten networking & security industry leaders and the next ten UK, San Jose or Israel based emerging technology startups as they paint the new picture for business enabled IT. What a fantastic transformational journey we have ahead as we march towards that spiritual IT milestone date of 2020.

Who knows, as digitisation becomes the DNA of societal and business existence, a flawed something may far outweigh a perfect something. Time to get involved.

Until next time.

Colin W

Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK, Networking, Security and Collaboration.

Twitter: @colinwccuk

TECHUK Annual Dinner Competition 2017

Are you a UK tech start-up? Win a place at TechUK’s Annual Dinner & connect with tech industry movers & shakers!

Computacenter and Dell-EMC are sponsoring this year’s TechUK’s Annual Dinner, which will take place on the evening of Wednesday 19th July 2017.

Senior figures from across the UK tech industry, including government and civil services, will gather to network and celebrate the achievements of our industry. Attendees will hear thought-provoking speeches from the likes of Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Laura Kuenssberg, Political Editor, BBC, before enjoying an open discussion over a three-course meal.

Leading tech executives across the industry were in attendance last year, with three quarters of attendees at either Managing Director level, or above. Media attendees from the Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg and Computer Weekly were also out in full force.

Computacenter is offering one lucky UK tech start-up the opportunity to attend this prestigious event, and get in front of some of the UK’s most senior tech leaders.

To win your place at the event, all you have to do is tweet @Computacenter, using the hashtag #techUKAD17 describing your UK tech start-up in four words, beginning with T, E, C and H.

The winner will be chosen at random.

The competition is open from Monday 26th June 2017 – Friday 7th July 2017, so get your thinking caps on before it’s too late.

Please see below for the full Terms & Conditions.

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Terms and conditions

  1. The promoter is: Computacenter plc whose registered office is at Computacenter House, Blackfriars Rd, London SE1 8HL.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom that are employed by a UK based technology start-up company, except employees of Computacenter plc and their close relatives, and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  5. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.
  6. Closing date for entry will be 7th July 2017. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted or accepted.
  7. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  8. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:

Tweet @Computacenter, using the hashtag #techUKAD17, describing your UK tech start-up in four words, beginning with T, E, C and H

  1. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe outside of its control, or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  2. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  3. The prize is as follows: One ticket for the techUK 2017 annual dinner
  4. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable.
  5. Winners will be chosen by random.
  6. The winner will be notified by DM on Twitter within 7 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  7. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected/is delivered.
  8. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  9. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  10. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
  11. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  12. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Nelson – My hiring story

How did you find Computacenter Hungary?

I found Computacenter Hungary from social media advertising and also at the same time via a recruitment agency. I started work here in January this year.

When was your interview, and how did it go?

I had two rounds of interview, and the first one was  a Telepresence inteview with my line manager, who is in the United Kingdome. The interview was thorough and I gained a good impression about the company, and the department. My second round interview was with the group Finance Director, who came here to conduct personal interviews and I seem to remember the interview was long and in some depth, but a great conversation and helped me develop a more complete picture of the company and the role. I think the job offer then come quite soon after – in fact it was just before Christmas, so great timing in fact!

What is your opininon about the recruitment process? Would you recommend anything to improve?

Thinking about the first round, I was rejected first for the first role I have applied for, the Head of GSD, and the second one was the Head of Shared Services. I gained a positive insight to Computacenter from the first interview that prompted me to persist when the second role came along. I was happy with the recruitment process and I was introduced to the Recruitment Manager at a pre-Christmas event to talk briefly about the roles on offer. As a candidate, I felt the feedback was good and its always helpful to hear feedback whether the application is successful or not which the company did well.

How did you manage to fit in? And how do you feel yourself at Computacenter now?

I think the culture of the company is a empowering and delegating culture, and this is an environment where I work well. I think the people are very friendly, which is helped me to get estabilished.  And that helps a lot.

What do you like in your current position? What are your challanges?

I think there are many opportunities for the function to develop and improve, and I think I can help to achieve that. There is a very capable and enthusiastic team, who are great to work with and an inspiration. I think the challange  of developing this SSC is very interesting to work with.

What are the differences between your previous and current workplace?

I was leading an SSC before as well in Hungary. Computacenter Hungary is more recently estabilished, which gives a lot of opportunity to shape it and to make the organisation meet stakeholder expectations and grow and develop as we deliver operational results and drive business enablement. It is a fast growing company with many career opportunities, meaning there is no better time like the present to join the team at Computacenter!

 

 

 

 

An Update From The 2016 Graduates

Hi all, I’m Shivani Mistry and welcome to the fourth edition of the Project Management Graduates blog update. First of all, thank you Meg for the insight into the graduate programme assessment centre and for the hints and tips. It certainly helped the candidates for their assessment centres the following week. We look forward to welcoming to new Projects Graduates later this summer! 

 

As the Projects Graduates we each had the opportunity to facilitate the assessment centres and it was a great experience to see the other side of the recruitment process. It also brought back memories from my assessment centre, for the Projects Graduate Programme and my GIO Industrial Placement year that I completed in 2014/15. I truly am very pleased to be back at Computacenter.

 

The Projects Graduates have officially completed eight months at Computacenter and as cliché as it sounds, time literally has flown by. Our last rotation was with Service Management. Each graduate was aligned to a Service Director/Customer account. Whilst on my rotation I was aligned to a Service Manager as well as a Buddy, current Service Management Associate, Hollie Cousins. It is always great to meet people that have been through the same process as you. The extra tips and knowledge is always useful. As well as learning about Service Management, I had the opportunity to gain exposure of the Project Management Office (PMO) and Professional Services side of the customer account. It allowed me to see an overall view of how various work streams within Computacenter function together onsite and how we co-ordinate across these work streams to deliver the best services to our customers – one team! 

 

With Service Management rotation finishing in January, it meant that our six months of rotations were officially over. By this point we were really looking forward to our first real project that we were going to be assigned to. We were finally going to start our role as Project Coordinators/Junior Project Managers and start testing our knowledge gained through the rotations and use our invaluable skills gained throughout our training. It’s always different when you’re shown how to do something and when you actually do it yourself. End of rotations also meant that the graduates were now parting ways into our new regions. We were all Hatfield based for the first six months. Whilst Will and Gaurav are still Hatfield based, Meg and I are now part of Midlands region and Oliver is now Manchester based. 

 

Since joining Computacenter everyone that we met has mentioned the fantastic opportunities there are, and how everyone is willing to help you develop your skills. I certainly agree with this and so do the other Projects Graduates. Whilst on my Service Management rotation I was given the opportunity to remain on the customer account and was allocated my first project. As well as being a Project Co-ordinator, for my development, I have been given the opportunity to complete a project as a Junior Project Manager. Although it was quite daunting to start with, I am now well settled into the account and I am enjoying it. The support that I have had since joining has been incredible! 

 

Thank you for taking a moment to read my blog. My Computacenter journey has been great so far and I look forward to the new experiences and challenges ahead. Stay tuned for the next Projects Practice Graduates blog update from Gaurav Saroye. 

An update from our 2016 Associates…

First of all thanks to Lowri for the last blog, a great insight into what we have been up to on the Associate programme.

Following on from that, our Helping Clients Succeed presentation gave a really good understanding into how our Sales team feel when they are presenting to a customer. Burning the midnight oil and trying to learn as much as we could about the hypothetical customer was great. As the day came both John Beard and Pierre Hall, who were acting as CEO and CIO respectively, pulled no punches and really put us to the sword. As we faced some tough questions regarding our time scales and commercials, it became apparent that we didn’t know as much as we thought! Safe to say we all enjoyed the process and congratulations to the winning team. We celebrated with a few lemonades and a Christmas meal for all the 2016 associates.

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Following on from this, it was great for us to see how the pressure ramps up and how important our Q4 and specifically December were.  The whole organisation steps it up a gear to ensure we have a successful year end, and it was great experience for myself and my fellow associates to help, where possible, to close out the year.

After the great success of last year’s Kick Off, I know the account teams spent some time doing filming to this year’s theme tune of ‘London’s Calling’. I spent the day with the Financial Services team and we had the “unfortunate” task of racing down the River Thames on a speedboat followed by going round the London Eye. A great day was had by all and I know everyone enjoyed their big screen debut at the Kick Off.

pic boaty

Speaking of the kick off, this year was my second kick off after last year’s massive success in Barcelona, what an event that was! And what a Kick Off it was this year again! Once again I was blown away by the scale of the event and the output from the vendors. It was great to get round all the stalls and continue to get to know all of our partners. The award ceremony was as loud, raucous and inspiring as last year; huge congratulations to everyone who was recognised on the night.

We recently had our half two development day where we went out to Wokefield Park in Reading where we reviewed the previous year. More importantly we looked ahead to what our learning gaps are and what we think we have left to do in order to become role ready in the summer. Whilst we recognise it is a daunting task, it is one my fellow associates and I are relishing.

With only 3 months to go until we ‘graduate’ from the programme, our final rotation will take us to Clare’s new enterprise sector where we will be helping drive opportunity and generating new business, something we are all looking forward to.

It has been a great first fourteen months at Computacenter, hopefully many more to come!

 

 

An update from the 2016 Graduates

Hello everyone. I’m Meg Roberts and welcome to the third instalment of the Project Management Graduate Blog. This instalment was due to be written by Angela Vane, however she has found another role within Computacenter and we all wish her the best of luck!

The last blog was brought to you by Oliver Lamont when we were nearing the end of our rotations. We have now finished them, and we are Project Co-ordinators! It is scary how quickly the time has gone, but now we are in the role we can see how priceless the connections we made during our rotations really are.

I know the assessment centres are coming up for next year’s project management graduates so I thought I’d take the time to give you a few hints and tips about what the day has in store.

There are two group exercises in the morning, both of these aren’t really to catch you out. It’s important within this role to work well as a team and show that you are able to listen to the ideas and opinions of others. However, it is key you can articulate your own ideas and push for them if you really believe your idea is the best to achieve the end goal.
On my assessment day, the other candidates and I really helped each other and this made us all calmer and I believe improved our chances. When Computacenter tell you these days aren’t a competition, they’re right – the company are only looking for the best candidates for the role. You aren’t in direct competition for a set amount of roles; so work together!

Also there will be a one-on-one interview. This is to get to know you better and to learn how you have dealt with situations in the past. Single interviews will always be nerve-racking but remember you aren’t on a time limit so if you need to pause, do so! One of my best feedback comments from the day was that I personalised my answers with examples not only from previous employment but also day-to-day situations with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Project management is all about people skills, therefore demonstrate that you have them. While some candidates are being interviewed, the rest of the group will have the time to ask current and previous graduates, and experienced Project Managers, questions. This isn’t scored, or put against your chances of being offered the role. So use the time to ask the real questions!

Finally, you will have your presentation. The best piece of advice I can offer you is to choose a topic you feel comfortable with and know like the back of your hand. It will make you feel more relaxed, and more prepared to answer any questions. Preparation is key for this part of the day so use your time wisely, and practice. The questions aren’t designed to catch you out – they are just to see how prepared you are, and if you know about the topic you’re presenting.

It seems like a lifetime ago since we had our own assessment days, as time goes so quickly. Overall just thoroughly prepare for the day, and try to enjoy it as weird as that sounds! Oliver and Shivani were both on my assessment day, so remember you never know who is going to be offered the role so ensure you work together.

Good luck to you all!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I have really enjoyed my time at Computacenter so far and I know this is a company has many opportunities for us all. I look forward to what the future brings with Computacenter! The next instalment of the Project Management Graduate Blog will be bought to you by Shivani Mistry.