So, my first blog post, ever! I’ve been asked to write a bit about the Cyfoeth Scheme, I think it’s probably best to start at the beginning.
Building a self-sufficient ICT team…
One of the things I decided early on, was that I didn’t wish to be dependent on a large external ICT company. Instead, I thought we should develop our own in-house ICT team, employing locally in Wales, using our small existing team as our starting point.
But, there was a problem. Having been in the IT industry for some time, I was aware that there is a fairly limited ICT skills base in Wales – largely because so many of those with the skills head across the border for work.
The value of apprenticeships…
So you can see the Catch 22. I looked at how my own career started, and I was fortunate to have an apprenticeship of sorts when I was 18 (albeit informal) and I knew then, how lucky I was to have such an opportunity, as there were few available at the time.
By the time I was 23, I was running a team of software developers, and I was faced with the challenge of getting skilled resource for the first time, so I launched a graduate scheme.
What I learned from this, was whilst I had some very bright girls and boys through the door, the learnings they had from university either didn’t go into enough depth to be useful, or were already outdated – a problem specific to ICT, I think.
Setting up Cyfoeth Apprenticeship
So, when presented with the same problem with NRW many years later, I believed apprenticeships were the way forward.
It was a bit of a challenge get the scheme launched, and I had to persuade Welsh Government and e-Skills to accept the value of vendor qualifications (such as Microsoft and Cisco) as acceptable apprenticeship targets. Thankfully, I had lots of support from Emyr (our Chief Exec) and my fellow Exec Team members to get this pushed through.
We have 9 apprentices now, and they have exceeded even our most optimistic expectations regarding their capability, and how soon they would be productive and useful. Frankly, we couldn’t do without them now, and we will shortly be recruiting some more I hope.
They have created a number of mobile applications, helped extensively with the Transition programme rollout, and developed forms for HR on our intranet to name but a few.
I really enjoy watching their youthful enthusiasm and I do think it’s infectious – in fact I have found myself “back on the tools” helping one or two of them with programming or fixing devices quite a few times – and it’s always difficult to wrench myself back to my desk, as I used to love doing that job myself almost 20 years ago.
I still like to think I’m the best at it – but much like a dad watching his son play football or rugby, thinking “I could be out there, I’d show them a thing or two!”, no doubt I’m deluding myself! The next generation is where it’s at!
The Cyfoeth scheme is definitely the single thing I am most proud of in my career. I believe we have provided an opportunity that so far will change 9 young people’s lives for the better, with more to come. We hope to be expanding our apprentice scheme across the business soon too.
I’m also glad to see companies like BT, Cardiff Council and the Office of National Statistics are all recruiting apprentices this year too.
Would love to hear your thoughts on my first blog, and I hope to bring you more updates on how our apprentices are getting on in the coming months.