It has been truly inspiring to read about the fantastic success stories highlighted by National Apprentice Week 2014. In all of these I have seen the same incredible contribution that our apprentices have made to our business over the last 12 months. On a personal level I am of course extremely proud to look back how they have seized the opportunity we gave them and the way they have developed not only as employees but as people. However, as a hard headed business man I also see how they have benefited our company. Our business is all about our people and the amazing, innovative software solutions we develop for leading household name brands, but we are not a charity and everyone has to contribute 100% to earn their place. The biggest compliment I can pay our apprentices is that after only a couple of weeks I saw them as full members of our team, as colleagues rather apprentices. When we embarked on our apprentice journey we were unsure what the outcome would be. We questioned whether as a small business we could provide the level of support that someone at that stage of their career required. Would they need extensive time from our senior employees at the expense of their own mission critical work? What external training was available to meet the complex requirements of our business? How long would it take for our apprentices to start producing production level work that we could deploy to the front line? Safe to say we needn’t have worried! In QA apprenticeships we found a first class partner who helped us find outstanding candidates and deliver a structured, in-depth training and development programme which matched the needs of our business. In our apprentices we found enthusiastic, energetic and passionate colleagues. Their lack of experience wasn’t a draw back, it was in fact a real positive. Not hindered by past experiences they have a can-do attitude and bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the challenges our organisation faces. They have taught us all the value of stopping and asking ‘why?’ As for distracting our senior employees it’s been the opposite. They jumped at the chance to support our apprentices and have themselves gained new skills through passing on their experience and knowledge. For us it has been a ‘win-win’ situation.

In our apprentices we found enthusiastic, energetic and passionate colleagues.

In the National Apprenticeship Scheme we found a partner who through the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers gave us the confidence and support to take on our first apprentice. Without this I doubt we would be where we are today, with 2 full time employees produced through our first ever digifi.it apprenticeship! When speaking with other business owners I am often asked what my advice would be when setting up an apprenticeship scheme. I say to them no business is too small – we only had 3 employees when we took on our first apprentice – we now have 10 employees. There are fantastic benefits available to businesses who take on apprentices but you have to fully commit to the scheme. Apprentices aren’t cheap labour, they are a significant investment. Though I promise that if you do invest you will reap the rewards many times over. Just looking back over the last 12 months I know that without our apprentices we wouldn’t have been able to grow at the rate we have done and critical projects such as a our native Android application would still not be deployed. So that’s all the positive stuff, can anything have been improved? I’ll be honest, we were fortunate to find QA Apprenticeships when we were investigating launching our programme but it wasn’t easy. Software engineering is a complex discipline but that’s what apprenticeships are for – teaching young people a trade. Apprenticeships should be complex otherwise it isn’t an apprenticeship. Now digifi.it might not manufacture physical products but as a country our success depends on our ability to harness the opportunities of the new digital economy.

Just looking back over the last 12 months I know that without our apprentices we wouldn’t have been able to grow at the rate we have done

Future wealth and prosperity will come from new industries and markets that probably don’t even exist yet. Software is eating the world and software engineering represents a ‘trade’ of the future. I truly believe the work we have done with our apprenticeship programme over the last 12 months is a blueprint for the future: a small, agile, innovative technology company partnering with government to skill the workforce of the future.