How to become a telecoms apprentice and what to expect

Joe Kimber, Membership & Events Executive (Former Executive Support Apprentice) at the ITP, talks through what it takes to become a telecoms apprentice. 

Jobs in IT and telecoms are set to grow considerably over the next 10 years, as more and more new technology becomes mainstream and more skilled professionals are needed. We are already seeing lots of change within the telecoms sector due to the Internet of Things and 5G. It’s a fantastic and exciting industry to be a part of, and apprenticeships are a great way to get into the sector and discover which areas you’re interested in.

What roles are available for apprentices?
There are so many varied roles available with both large employers like BT and Virgin Media and smaller, independent companies. Roles include:

  • Technicians and Engineers – for installing & configuring computer and telecoms hardware, software, systems & networks.
  • Network planners – assisting in the design of civil and fibre-optic infrastructure
  • Telecoms Sales – liaising with potential customers and generating new business.
  • Customer service managers– helping clients with issues and account management.

What are the development opportunities?
Apprenticeships are divided into different levels:

  • Intermediate: level 2 (equivalent educational level of 5 passes at GSCE grades A – C).
  • Advanced: level 3 (equivalent to 2 A Level passes)
  • Higher: Level 4,5,6 and 7 (foundation degree and above)

The apprentices who train through the ITP’s scheme have the chance to qualify for letters after their name through professional registration and for engineers, there’s the opportunity to gain chartered status.

How long do apprenticeship roles last and what can you expect at the end?
It varies from company to company, but most are for around 12- 18 months. Most apprentices that we work with have stayed on in permanent jobs with their apprentice employer after the scheme has ended. However, if you don’t want to stay on with the company- (depending on any agreement made with your employer) an apprenticeship will give you the experience, confidence and skills to gain other roles.

Where do you find the roles?
Many roles are advertised on job sites such as Indeed or Monster, but you can also check on the National Apprenticeship Service site. We advertise across these and on our own website, so if there is a specific company you’re interested in working for, it’s worth checking directly on their website for vacancies too.

What is the interview process like?
The apprentices who come through the ITP scheme take part in a telephone interview and then usually attend an assessment day. These are normally held at the employer’s premises so it’s a great opportunity to look at where you will be working if you are offered the job! There are usually some assessments, and often in IT and telecoms this would be a maths test, plus some fun group exercises and sometimes a presentation.

What are the benefits of telecoms apprenticeships?
For most of the apprentices we work with they say it’s that no two days are the same, and being able to learn on the job whilst being paid.  Many good schemes give you access to mentors, which means you’re getting coached from the very start from people who really know their stuff. I can’t think of a better way to kick-start your career, plus you’re earning whilst learning. For me, working in telecoms has opened up lots of opportunities for my future as I’m gaining experience in a fast-growing industry where jobs are secure and increasing.

Joe started off his career in telecoms as an apprentice at the ITP and is now employed full-time. Find out more about the ITP apprenticeship scheme at  www.itpapprenticeships.org

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NAW 2017 case study: Jessica Ashton,BT Business and Public Sector, Customer Engineer

Not only was Jessica Ashton the first female apprentice in her team, but in just over two years at BT she has become a mentor, a STEMNET Ambassador and the only trained Barefoot representative in her region.

After leaving university, Jessica knew she wanted to put her practical skills to use but also earn money whilst learning.  Now almost at the end of her apprenticeship, and about to take on a permanent role, Jessica did have some reservations to begin with, “I was offered a higher role and thought it would be scary learning a technical job. However, learning with BT has been fantastic and I would recommend it to anybody. All my colleagues/ buddies have been a pleasure to work with and they would do anything to help me. My colleagues within my team are all so experienced and they are like family, everyone is so friendly and willing to help you out no matter what time of the day it is.”

A typical day involves going to a customer’s business, small or large, to carry out provision on products such as Avaya IP Office, BT Cloud Voice or Cisco routers. “I then liaise with the customer on where they would like their phones allocated as well as how they want the phone system to work” Jessica explains. “This involves changing and adding configuration on software using my laptop. I may be working with an IT technician onsite to provide them with a faster network or to provide a backup router for their network which consists of inputting commands on the command-line interface to achieve rapid and reliable performance. My day involves a lot of problem solving but that is why I love it so much, I enjoy challenging myself and when you complete a job and help the customer it makes the whole experience so rewarding.”

“I really enjoy going to different destinations every day, I am always meeting new people and dealing with a variety of tasks which keeps me on my toes and flourishing. The real-life experience, as well as getting qualifications and earning a salary, are fantastic. As an apprentice, I have my own van, tools, uniform, laptop and mobile. I receive free broadband at home and I can sign up to discounted shares with the company. I can also carry out extra qualifications online using learning home which can further my knowledge on my engineering skills or leadership.”

Mentoring has also played a large part in Jessica’s journey, helping her with interview techniques, leadership style and emotional intelligence – as well as shaping her future career path. It has also led Jessica to become a mentor herself, building up her coaching skills and giving back to the organisation by helping fellow team members. In addition, she has become a STEMNET Ambassador which has given her the confidence to demonstrate STEM subjects and engage and inspire her local community on how rewarding the telecommunications profession is. She has also been accepted onto the Future Leader’s course which will give her the expertise for her future aspirations. She is sharing this knowledge to mentor university students who are striving to become business leaders.

Over the past two years, there have been some memorable highlights – including presenting to over 580 students and businesses at the BT Apprenticeship Fair alongside the company’s Director of Wales.  Jessica also championed National Women’s Engineering Day, and was invited to go live on BT’s radio station to encourage more women into STEM.  Not only that, but she is also the only trained Barefoot representative in North Wales (BT’s initiative with the British Computer Society), which sees her deliver sessions in schools – talking to teachers about the value of computer science.

“The apprenticeship has provided me with the time and resources to carry out such amazing projects. The projects I am involved in are helping to provide education and training in technologies that rely on BT products and services. I achieve great satisfaction through inspiring those involved to think about having a career in telecommunications. Young people can bring innovation to the industry.”

So, what’s next? “I hope to become a more technical engineer and become more experienced on Cisco products. I am currently studying for my CCNA and hope to gain a CCNP in the future. Perhaps, I will become a leader in future to help shape and deliver these products within the company.”

“I would highly recommend apprenticeships to everyone, they are the way forward! It is a much better way to learn, you can achieve qualifications in your profession as well as gaining real work experience. At university, you may get the qualification, but companies say you haven’t got enough experience to get the job which leaves you in a catch 22 situation.”

Jessica was a finalist in the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. http://www.itp.org

NAW 2017: Interview with Anthony Vincent – ITP Mentor of the Year

Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.”

 Winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award, Anthony Vincent has been mentoring for almost eight years. His most recent mentee, Jessica Ashton, was a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category. So, how did it all begin? Starting his career as an apprentice himself, Anthony joined BT straight from school at 16. Over the years, he held several roles, and at 23 was promoted into his first engineering line operational management role. Since then he has worked across transformation, production and supplier management, and managing apprentice field teams to today where is responsible for driving operational delivery with third party suppliers.

Were you ever mentored?

Yes, and still to this day I have mentor. I have had a number throughout my career who have inspired me and helped me in several different ways. Some have helped grow my maturity whilst others have been a sounding board for me to self-reflect on my leadership style etc. Where you are in your career and which areas you wish to develop should help determine your choice of mentor. Also, having more than one mentor at a time can be beneficial too, as it has allowed me to broaden my ‘network of influence’ outside my normal sphere in the business and get a refreshing point of view from someone else who doesn’t necessarily have a conscious or unconscious bias to the world I may be working in at that time.

What drove you to become a mentor?

Having had some fantastic role models who have supported and inspired me throughout my career, I’ve learnt the importance of one of the traits that makes them who they are; the desire to want to give something back. Being a mentor is one way I can give something back too, and if I’m able to inspire and be just a little part of next phase of talent coming through then that’s great. You never know one of them might be my boss one day, as I did become years later for one of my very first mentors.

How long have you been mentoring?

I have rarely actively offered mentoring support to someone out of the blue – for me is doesn’t work like that. It’s all about the needs of the mentee, what they feel they need to develop, and who inspires them enough to want as a role model. So, as I do with my mentors, I approach them. Looking back, I’ve been mentoring for as long as I’ve been a manager – since 2009.

What do you get from it? Do you ever experience reverse mentoring (where you are receiving as much value from the experience as the mentee is?)

Yes absolutely, reverse mentoring this is one of the huge benefits you get – call it self-therapy in a way. At the most basic level for example, when your mentee is talking through a scenario you can relate to, you tend ask yourself – would I have honestly taken the same approach faced with the same thing?  Mentoring is a vehicle not only to grow others self-awareness, but your own too.

How do you see mentoring helping young professionals?

Understanding where you want to get to and navigating your career journey isn’t easy. Just having that opportunity to sanitise your own decision making, or take on board those golden nuggets of advice from someone else, is immeasurable when it comes to getting to where you want to be. It’s also worth noting that as I mentor I don’t profess to know all the answers either; my opinion or advice is purely advisory – it is up to the individual to put the pieces where they feel they fit. Reflecting on the times with my own mentors, there has been occasions where I’ve honestly not known where to start with a particular problem. Talking it through with my mentor, their opinion has then sparked a new train of thought which I wouldn’t have found without talking it through out loud.   

What advice would you give your peers who may be considering mentoring?

My advice would be actually, why wouldn’t you want to mentor?

Think about all those interactions you’ve had with people over the years, either formally or informally, which you have walked away from feeling valuable and benefited you. Now ask yourself, why wouldn’t you want to be mentor and help someone else?

Anthony Vincent is Service Partner Delivery Manager at Openreach and the winner of the ITP’s Mentor of the Year Award 2016, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. 

NAW 2017 case study: Matthew Gobey, Apprentice CALOMI Engineer, Openreach

When Matt (21) finished his A-Levels he had little idea what he wanted to do next, but he matt-gobey-2knew he wasn’t interested in university. After hearing about apprenticeships at college he applied for several and landed himself a position at Openreach, BT’s local network division.  Two years on, he is now a fully qualified engineer almost at the end of his apprenticeship, and has built up the confidence to take on the next challenge.

“Having no engineering experience, I was initially really concerned about the requirements of the apprenticeship and the technical aspects of my role” Matt explains. “It was a relief however to find myself in a similar position to many of the other apprentices starting at the same time as me.”

A typical day for Matt consists of the maintenance, installation and repair of the local access network between residential or business customers and their local exchange. He can often find himself completing anything from a single residential repair to a multiple line business installation.

Moving from a classroom-based environment into a technical and demanding role was challenging to begin with. However, as Matt explains “the apprenticeship has also given me the tools and confidence to network with employees at all levels. My organisational skills have developed and I now have a defined career path.”

matt-gobeyThroughout his apprenticeship, Matt has made the most of every opportunity which has come his way. In just two years, he has hosted mentoring talks at local schools, run development events for fellow apprentices, coached and trained new engineers, and covered his operations manager – at one stage managing a team of 22 people.  In fact, he now hopes to pursue a career in apprenticeship coaching, helping to develop the apprentices of the future.

“My apprenticeship has allowed me to see areas of BT that are never often seen. I have climbed radio masts, visited the BT Tower, attended conferences at Adastral Park and even had lunch with BT’s CEO and his top team. All these opportunities have been made available to me as an apprentice giving me amazing experiences and brilliant networking opportunities that not many often receive.”

Alongside the apprenticeship scheme, Matt has been able to take advantage of the ITP Mentoring Programme which sees a senior telecoms professional matched with an apprentice. “Mentoring with my ITP Mentor has been hugely important in helping me to develop my confidence and knowledge of roles outside of engineering. Nick (my mentor) has helped to introduce me to new positions and people I would have never met in my day to day role. He has helped me to develop my knowledge both in and out of BT.”

So, what’s next for Matt? “My ultimate ambition is to progress to a senior management matt-gobey-4role. I am motivated by the concept of having a team who I can inspire and develop. My dream for the future is to achieve a role such as this, providing me with the expertise, knowledge and skills to help develop not only people in my team but across BT and the wider industry.

Apprenticeships are great alternatives to university and further study. Earn money along with valuable knowledge and experiences. Your apprenticeship is what you make of it.”

Matt is the winner of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. The ITP’s apprenticeship scheme has created more than 60 roles across the industry since its launch three years ago .

 

 

 

NAW 2017 case study: Michael Bliss, Cost Analyst, Level 3 Communications

 

After completing the first year of a math’s degree, Michael decided it wasn’t giving him the learning opportunities he needed. Researching his options, he realised that an apprenticeship could give him on the job training and put his skills into practice. He set his sights on engineering, seeking advice from professionals in the field.
“I finally came across the apprenticeship through the ITP” explains Michael. “I had some concerns in the earlier stages that I would not be taken seriously while working and having ‘Apprentice’ as my title. This soon changed however when I started to produce the same results as permanent, long-term employees.”

Michael’s role has expanded a lot since he first joined, and he is often given new challenges to handle such as acting as interim lead for key projects and coordinating the team whilst his manager was on leave.  Another highlight has been getting involved in project managing site exits for rehoming customer services, which involved over 130 customers with 200+ circuits needing rehoming. “These projects are critical, due to strict deadlines to ensure customers do not lose their service as this affects delicate customers such as prisons.”

At the start of the apprenticeship process, Michael was assigned a mentor to help him settle into the company and this became a pivotal moment in his development. “I was very lucky that my mentor is my senior director in the area of the company I’m in. On my first mentor meeting it was explained to me that what he liked most to see in his employees is the ability to be proactive. He didn’t want his team sat waiting for something to happen but for them to go out find the answers, results, contacts or whatever it may have been.

I believe this was perfect for me to hear as it meant that I was actively looking to improve the company and was serious about what I was doing rather than in a job for pocket money. I tried to use this approach in everything I did at work and even started to rub off in my personal life meaning that I wasn’t reliant on others to do things for me, but I would do it myself. The advice helped me to become self-efficient.”

The experience has helped Michael in developing his self-confidence. Before joining he admits he had a fear of presenting but took the initiative to participate on a presentation skills training, which ultimately resulted in him presenting to the VP of Operations and his leadership team on the Level 3 apprenticeship scheme. “This was a unique experience and made me want to try new things I would not have attempted before on my own, such as volunteering outside of work.”

“I would strongly advise young people to consider apprenticeships. I believe they are what you make of them, if you put the hard work in you will seek your rewards.  I guess the advice I’m trying to give is to seek as much opportunities that you can! Identify areas where you can improve, and don’t let anything get in your way or stop you. I was lucky in that my manager was happy for me to apply my ideas and techniques with the team and gave me the time and opportunity to develop.”


Michael recently won
the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals SME Apprentice of the Year Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. http://www.itp.org

 

NAW 2017 case study: Apprentice Broadcast Engineer, BT

The ITP Christopher Mills Award recognizes positive contribution to a workplace or team through technical innovation. This year’s winner, Sean Norgate, is currently in his third and final year of an apprenticeship – working in the TV, systems and tools team.

“We basically manage and configure all the software that is used by operations to ensure sean-norgatethat TV signals are being routed correctly around the country, and the world” Sean explains. “In TV, we rotate around different roles every six months during our apprenticeships. This means that we get a good idea of all the different work being done around the building, and get a good idea of what our strengths and weaknesses are. I have worked mostly in technical roles, as this is what suits me best, and the team I’m currently working in will most likely be the one I move into when I graduate.”

Working for a huge company with long processes made Sean notice the many different systems used in TV, all managed by different people across the business. It was this that drove him to develop a solution to allow people to request the access needed in one go. “It’s essentially a database which manages requests and tracks who has access to what. It sends out emails to the necessary people to set up access, and then keeps an audit of who currently has access to what.”

sean-norgate-3Sean’s new system has now massively reduced the time required for new people to apply for access to all the systems they need, and means the team can get an accurate number of active accounts on each system at any time. “This means that BT can save money by working out exactly the number of user accounts they need to pay for against each system.”

“Winning this award is very important to me because I am determined to show other young people that apprenticeships are a great way to learn, and that some people can be far more successful via this route. Despite getting very good GCSE and A-Level grades, I performed poorly when I went to university after college. I found the learning environment very different and it didn’t work for me. Since starting an apprenticeship I’ve learnt so much more and worked so much harder as a result. Winning awards like this is a great showcase for my success and the power of the apprenticeship scheme.”

Sean is the winner of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals Christopher Mills Award, which recognises outstanding contribution made to the industry. www.itp.org

 

 

 

Final apprenticeship levy details: what your business needs to know

 

We are encouraging all telecoms companies to prepare for the April 2017 apprenticeship levy deadline, following the government’s confirmation of the final details last week.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

Launched to fund three million places for apprentices by 2020, the levy will begin from 6th  April 2017 and will require employers with a wage will bill of over £3m to contribute at a rate of 0.5%. Following its launch, and a period of consultation, the final plans have now been revealed.

What are the updates you should know about? 

  • Employers not eligible to pay will receive funding towards the costs of training an apprentice.
  • The government will provide an additional 20% payment to train 16 – 18 year olds while keeping a ring-fenced amount of £60m to increase funding in disadvantaged areas.
  • For those with less than 50 employees, 100% of the training costs will be paid by the government if taking on apprentices between the ages of 16 – 18.
  • The same will apply to smaller employers taking on 19 – 24 year olds in care, or with an education and health care plan.
  • Employers agreeing to train 16 – 18 year olds on apprenticeship frameworks will be offered an additional payment, equal to 20% of the funding band maximum, to help them adapt to the new funding model.
  • The government has increased the time businesses have to spend their funds from 18 to 24 months.
  • Businesses will now also be able to transfer their digital funds to other employers in their supply chain or sector in 2018.

What is the ITP’s advice?

Following the launch of the levy earlier in the year, many businesses have been anxiously waiting to learn the final details and understand how this will impact their business. It’s good news for smaller organisations, with access to more funding than we had originally anticipated. We have been running an apprenticeship scheme for the industry for the past three years, and have seen the benefits apprentices can bring to grow new talent within an organisation. We would encourage all telecoms companies, levy paying or not, to get prepared now in order to meet the April 2017 deadline.

We are offering an exclusive consultancy service for the telecoms industry to help businesses get ready for, and understand, the implications of the levy before April 2017. The ITP has been running the only telecoms apprenticeship scheme of its kind since 2013 creating more than 60 roles during that time.

For more information, please visit our new apprenticeship site

5 mins with…Ciaran Gillespie, Apprentice Engineer, Green Telecom

 

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? 

I considered becoming a telecoms apprentice because I had a strong interest in IT, especially on the networking side of things. At home, I was always taking apart my PCs, laptops and phones to see what was inside and to see how they work. This led to me building gaming PCs, servers and networks at home. Before the apprenticeship I was studying Level 3 IT and computing, after this I was looking for further study in the field that interested me so I went for an IT & Telecoms apprenticeship with the ITP.

How long have you been an apprentice? 

I have been an apprentice for eight months .

What does your typical day entail? 

My typical day can entail fault diagnosis and maintenance on IT & Telecom systems such as PABX and broadband connections. I also program and install PABX, VoIP and broadband devices on customer sites along with all the infrastructure that goes with it. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I get to take apart and diagnose faults on computers.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice? 

The benefit of being an apprentice is learning whilst you earn. ITP apprentices also have many benefits like ITP insight events and seminars. The ITP is very supportive in your professional growth in the early stages of your career.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship? 

If you have an interest in tech, and wish to gain some new skills In IT & Telecoms, this apprenticeship is perfect for you. It’s a quite technical job so problem-solving skills and a technical mindset is a must.

 

5 mins with…Gabriel Keegan, Customer Services Engineer at G3 Comms

What made you consider becoming a telecoms apprentice? I didn’t enjoy University and wanted to learn specialised skills while being paid. Also the fact that I would have a guaranteed job at the end of my apprenticeship was appealing.

How long have you been an apprentice? For around seven weeks.

What does your typical day entail? My typical work day consists of answering tickets that customers have logged, speaking to clients on the phones, repairing and installing equipment and occasionally going to site and fixing faults that can’t be done remotely. As well as being shown and taught about the systems I will be using and how to repair them.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice? The benefits of being an apprentice are being trained and taught within a working environment. So not only are you learning the skills required to do a job, you are also receiving real life experience as you are in a professional working environment on a day to day basis. You are paid for the work you do, so you are earning as well as learning, this really incentivizes you to work hard.  As you are an employee, you receive all the benefits that the company offers – for example I am eligible for private health care once I finish my six month probation period. I am also able to take part in the pension scheme. Another benefit is the Apprentice Oyster Card, as I work and live in London this is very useful.

What advice would you give to other young people considering an apprenticeship? The advice I would offer to those looking at apprenticeships is to do research in your field of interest so you can find the apprenticeship that is right for you. Remember that this is a step towards a future career, and to take it seriously as the impression you make while at work will have a lasting effect on your future prospects.

Find out more about the ITP’s Apprenticeship Scheme.

 

What does the apprenticeship levy mean for your business?

Following the government’s announcement that the scheme will go ahead next year, are you clear on what the apprenticeship levy means for your business?

What is the apprenticeship levy? 

The levy is designed to fund 3 million places for apprentices, paid for by companies with a payroll of more than £3m and charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual bill. The scheme will start in 6th April 2017, despite calls for a delay from business leaders due to economic uncertainty.

What does it mean for the telecoms industry? 

 

  • All companies with a wage bill of over £3m per annum will be required to pay the levy into a digital account which the government will top up by 10%.
  • Those with a lesser bill than £3m will not be required to pay, but can draw from the scheme.
  • Levy-paying employers will use money in their digital account to pay for apprenticeship training.  If they do not have enough money in their account, the government will ‘co-invest’ with the employer to cover the extra amount needed.
  • Non-levy paying employers will only be required to contribute 10% of the cost of training an apprentice. The government will cover the 90% of remaining training costs, and will also cover 90% of the extra amount if levy-paying customers do not have enough funds to cover all costs.
  • Small employers will not pay anything if they employ apprentices under the age of 19, and will receive a £1k payment with an additional £1k payment to the training provider.
  • Employers not using their levy fund within 18 months will lose it and the government will reclaim it.
  • The next funding guidance will be published in October 2016.

What does the ITP advise? 

Ann Potterton, CEO of the ITP comments: “Despite a mixed reception, and some resistance from key business groups, the long awaited apprenticeship levy will go ahead. We welcome a scheme which encourages more apprenticeships for young people. However, with only nine months until it comes into play, and only six months from guidance publication to set up, telecoms companies need to act now to make sure they are prepared.”

The ITP recommends:

  • Those with a wage bill of more than £3m access the government’s online calculator to work out how much they will need to pay. They will need to know the percentage of their workforce living in England, and the type of apprenticeship training they will need.
  • Ensure all payroll systems are set up to start paying the levy from April 2017.
  • Funding will be received via a digital government account which businesses will need to register with from January 2017.
  • All companies should start to look at recruiting apprentices either in-house or through an official scheme straight away.

Ann continues: “The ITP is the only organisation which specialises in telecoms apprenticeships, and our current scheme is still available until April. We are actively recruiting companies wanting to start apprenticeship schemes this autumn or next spring, and can help with the recruitment, funding and administration. We can also help businesses to understand what they will pay, what they are entitled to, and how to spend the levy or set up their own scheme to grow their own talent.”

For more information about the ITP’s apprenticeship scheme visit www.theitp.org