In addition to being the world’s leading software organisation, Microsoft is a tireless supporter of young people starting their professional careers in the IT sector. Back in 2009, in partnership with QA, Microsoft first launched theMicrosoft Apprenticeship Programmeas part of their Get On Initiative – a programme which has now helped over 4,000 young people to gain Microsoft skills, qualifications and find employment in their extensive partner network.
An alternative route into employment
Microsoft wanted to do even more, by recruiting its own apprentices for a variety of roles across their London, Reading and Edinburgh locations.
Jacqui Lloyd, Early in Career Programme Manager for Microsoft, explains:“We saw the success of our Partner Apprenticeship Programme , so the decision to create our own apprenticeship programme was an easy one. Just signing up for an apprenticeship tells you that individual is courageous – some of our apprentices are just 16, and have made a conscious decision to take an alternative route into the workplace, which is incredibly brave. We want people like that in Microsoft.”
Choosing the right partner
It was important for Microsoft to choose the right partner to deliver their programme.
“The quality of QA’s apprenticeship programmes, coupled with their experience gained while delivering our Partner Apprenticeship Programme, and the fact that they have anOfsted ‘Outstanding’ rating, made a big difference to us,”
Jacqui recalls.“We want to help our apprentices get the most out of their time with Microsoft, so QA’s enthusiasm to help us build abespoke programme, including extending the length from 12 to 18 months, was hugely important for us.”
QA ran workshops with Microsoft’s hiring managers, to assess how an apprenticeship programme could best benefit the organisation. It quickly emerged that there was a need for both technical and business management skills, so QA and Microsoft worked together to develop separate, bespoke apprenticeship courses to meet those needs.
“The business management programme was created specifically for Microsoft,”says Jacqui,“and it’s enabled us to develop a wide range of skills in our apprentices. The delivery of the programme is flexible and designed to our needs - our Technology Apprentices attend training delivered at QA locations whilst the Business Management training programme is delivered on-premise by QA at our head office in Thames Valley Park. It makes things far less disruptive for our apprentices as they start out in the world of work.”
Off to a flying start
With the groundwork complete, Microsoft ran a thorough recruitment process, looking for individuals with talent, commitment, and passion for IT. From this, the first 13 apprentices were recruited, and after an induction week run jointly with QA there’s been no stopping them.
“It’s incredible how much they’ve achieved, in the first seven weeks they’ve started to participate in extra projects aimed at stretching and developing their talents, just as our regular employees do. They’ve formed their own project developing an app, and they’ve been getting involved in our outreach activities in local schools, including ourDigigirlz eventswhere we inspire young women to take an interest in IT.They’ve even presented to Microsoft partners and customers at our Future Decoded event in London. Through the whole process, QA has been extremely easy to work with, and – crucially – the calibre of apprentice they’ve helped us create has meant we get as much value out of the programme as the apprentices do.”
Less than two months after the programme’s launch, the results were so positive that Jacqui was already planning for the future.
“We’re looking at our intake for next year, and we’ve been inundated with requests from departments that have been impressed with our apprentices. We’re looking forward to creating a pipeline of millennial talent within our organisation, and a steady stream of opportunities for young people to get started in the world of IT. We’ll definitely be looking to QA to help us with this in the future.”
This kind of success just goes to show that Microsoft’s commitment to giving apprentices the best IT training and skills isn’t just well-placed – it also makes perfect business sense.