People and processesFuture WorkforceMicrosoft assesses its apprenticeship programme

Microsoft assesses its apprenticeship programme

Microsoft UK discusses the assessment of the overall impact and value of the Microsoft Apprenticeships Programme through a whitepaper

Microsoft UK has unveiled research on the impact of its own apprenticeship programme – The Microsoft Apprenticeships Programme – which has been running at scale in the UK since 2010.

Through the Microsoft Apprenticeship Programme Research White Paper, an overview is provided of the progress, impact and value delivered by the programme. It also highlights where improvements can be made, providing pointers for public sector organisations that utilise apprenticeships.

Ten one-hour qualitative interviews were conducted to understand the experiences of those who were involved with the programme in different ways. Insights from these one-hour interviews informed the design of the quantitative online survey.

A director at Microsoft UK has said that apprenticeships are transforming young people’s lives across the UK but companies must continue to focus on quality over quantity.

The Microsoft Apprenticeships Programme

Microsoft has been committed to enabling the uptake of apprenticeships in the UK, with three key aims:

  • Help more people access digital careers
  • Enable employers to widen their talent pool
  • By extension, address critical shortages of digital specialists

From 2010 to 2018, nearly 20,000 people started a digital career through the programme.

The programme also comes out as a viable talent acquisition option for employers and an attractive career strategy for young people. Microsoft’s apprenticeships teach youngsters digital skills such as coding, cloud computing and IT. These are delivered via partners such as QA, Intequal and Firebrand, as well as customers.

Microsoft Apprenticeships Programme Research

Microsoft Apprenticeships Programme Research was commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Edelman Intelligence in May 2018 to evaluate the apprenticeship programme’s long-term significance and identify areas of improvement. The study follows on from research carried out in 2015. It was conducted with current and former apprentices and employers who take on apprentices from the programme.

Overall, there is an expectation for Microsoft to grow its role further, strengthening partnerships with learning partners and employers. Going forward, two main areas to improve the programme were identified: increase awareness of the programme amongst prospective apprentices and improve the programme’s relevance through more flexibility in course content and structure.

Ability to create impact

The apprenticeship programme has strengthened its ability to create an impact amongst both apprentices and employers. It continues to deliver immediate monetary benefits as well as longer-term value.

Apprentices see it as an opportunity for personal development and a driver of social mobility. Amongst employers, there is a fundamental shift in how the apprenticeship programme is perceived.

Employers also mentioned a more diverse workforce as a key outcome of the apprenticeship programme, together with better productivity. The supply-chain model and Microsoft presence are recognised as key to the success of the apprenticeship programme, delivering value especially in terms of brand recognition and ensuring quality training content.

There are substantial benefits for businesses with this programme. This was along with the fact that the programme provided valuable skills and experience to the apprentices. Employers reported a £36,840 uplift as a direct result of taking on apprentices, up from £11,782 in 2015.

A driver of social mobility

Apprentices see the apprenticeship programme as an opportunity for personal development and a driver of social mobility. They view it as a way to learn new skills and drive social mobility.

Forty two percent of the apprentices come from lower social class backgrounds. They also see the apprenticeship programme as an opportunity for personal development. More than half are attracted to Microsoft’s apprenticeships because of the company’s reputation in the sector. Sixty four percent of them said they liked the distinctiveness of the programme.

Value creator

Amongst employers, there is a fundamental shift in how the apprenticeship programme is perceived. From being mainly a means to attract young people in a cost-efficient way, it is now described as a value creator for individual employers and the industry.

Employers also mentioned a more diverse workforce as a key outcome of the programme, together with better productivity. Equating to approximately £5,200 more in annual salary, apprentices estimated that they earn 31% more every year because of their programme. Seven-in-10 also say their apprenticeship will help them achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents and puts them on the right track for buying a house.

Businesses are also placing less emphasis on finding people to fit the company culture (29%, down 18 percentage points from 2015). They are now looking to bring in more flexible employees (33%, up eight percentage points from 2015).

The supply-chain model and Microsoft presence are recognised as key to the success of the apprenticeship programme. These factors deliver value especially in terms of brand recognition and ensuring quality training content.

Quality over quantity

Hugh Milward, Director of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft UK, said that as the popularity of digital apprenticeships continued to grow, it was important they gave young people valuable skills they could use.

“When Microsoft launched its apprenticeship programme in 2010 there was a quiet confidence that it would achieve great things.

“Nearly a decade later, and with over 20,000 apprenticeship starts, delivered by Microsoft Learning Partners, that quiet confidence has become something to shout about.

“Digital apprenticeships buck the general trend that has seen a drop in starts. The Government’s October 2018 figures show that apprenticeship starts were 15% lower than the corresponding period in 2016.

“These same figures, though, showed digital apprenticeships increasing by 21%. However, it is crucial that we are not drawn into a numbers game. Digital apprenticeships provide highly relevant skills in a digital world that benefit both the apprentice and the employer. The emphasis must be on quality over quantity.”

Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, who attended the event agreed to Hugh Milward’s comments. She also added that apprenticeships were a great way for the UK to build a skilled workforce for the future.

“It was a pleasure to attend Microsoft’s National Apprenticeship Week event and have the chance to chat with their apprentices and staff,” he said.

“The great work that Microsoft have been doing shows how we’ve transformed apprenticeships in this country, working hand in hand with businesses to create high-quality apprenticeship opportunities so that more young people can get a good job and progress in their careers. Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to get the skilled workforce they need and help us build the workforce the country needs for the future.”

Chyanne Mwangi, an apprentice at Microsoft, said: “I didn’t think university was the right route for me, so I started looking at apprenticeships. I wanted a role in marketing, and I saw that the Microsoft apprenticeship would give me a professional qualification, experience and a certificate in coding. It is giving me all the skills I need to progress in life.”

Attract and hire talent

Last year in December, HMRC Chief Digital and Information Officer Jacky Wright was in favour of developing a new operating model. This new operating model, according to Jacky, will be focusing on outcomes and citizen needs rather than delivering IT projects. The model will help the government keep pace in the digital era.

She was looking at the HMRC’s apprentices and focusing on developing the diversity of the department. This, she said, will realise the strategy of improving the institution’s capabilities in becoming a world-class organisation.

There are more than 1,800 apprentices across HMRC with around 150 of those in digital, and Wright said that her team and the government wanted to be a leader in “making sure that we have effective processes for attracting and hiring talent from all walks of life”.

“We’re really focused on diversity and making sure that we are truly representative. We’re doing a lot to focus on our apprenticeships and our far stream processes,” Wright said.

Earlier this month, a specially-developed Software Developer Accelerated Apprenticeship provided 22 civil servants with in-demand and emerging IT skills.

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