The busy financial services division of multi-national media and research business Thomson Reuters, needed a new injection of talent and IT expertise to help the business, but instead of taking on a graduate or an already skilled employee, they took the decision to take on a Firebrand apprentice.
Thomson Reuters Elite explains why they decided to take on a Firebrand apprentice instead of a graduate or a recruit with IT skills.
The Northampton-based office of Thomson Reuters Elite is the home of the worldwide development and support centre for MatterSphere, a document and case management product developed for busy lawyers. The business is part of multi-national media and research business Thomson Reuters which prides itself in promoting talent and after some early success with apprentices from local colleges the business decided to see what a Firebrand apprentice could achieve.
Darren Baldwin is the Software Development Manager at Thomson Reuters Elite and was initially tasked with taking over the management of three apprentices from the local Milton Keynes College. While the apprentices had worked well Baldwin thought their apprenticeship course wasn’t sophisticated enough for the roles that his department required. As he explains
“I started to look around and see if there was anything different from the current college apprenticeship course and I stumbled across the Microsoft Partners Apprenticeship scheme, and the more I read about it, the more it seemed to align with us.”
After further investigation Baldwin arranged to talk to Microsoft’s Dominic Gill who runs the Microsoft Partners Apprenticeship scheme of which Firebrand is one of the four UK partners:
“The more we heard about the programme the more it seemed like the logical fit for us. We are a Microsoft house - MatterSphere links directly into Microsoft Office - and we develop our software using Microsoft tools and technology – and we very rarely stray away from that. Additionally the different tracks in the course – SQL Server, Windows Server, Windows 7 – meant we could use the course to fill roles in the sales, database, support/help desk, and developer teams with one solution.”
As well as the technical aspects of the apprenticeship Baldwin also saw that course structure; with one week of training followed by 10 weeks of assignments and on-the-job training, had positive advantages for the business compared to the standard day-release training offered by normal apprenticeships. ” Having structured periods of time where you know your apprentice is training and you know what they’re capable of is a good way to train, and it benefits everybody. Especially compared to a normal training course where apprentices typically have to travel a day a week and it’s a four-day working week – plus if they’re only away for one day a week the apprentices tend to forget their training.”
Unlike many organisations Thomson Reuters Elite has always had a policy of recruiting and building talent from within and while they have taken on apprentices in the past there is no official Thomson Reuters Elite policy on taking on apprentices, However Baldwin sees close parallels between the apprenticeship scheme and their traditional process, as he points out.
“Historically we have had people coming in and starting at the support desk and moving through the organisation, and it’s always been that sort of culture here. The support desk is where you learn what we do and get up to speed on the products and how to support them and then people – if they want to – develop within. So we have always had that sort of culture with us as an organisation and the apprenticeship fits in nicely with that.”
While investigating taking on an apprentice Baldwin also looked at the alternatives such as internal training and recruiting a graduate, but as he details the case for an apprenticeship was the best option.
“We could have got people off the street who could do software development or be on a support desk and then train them up in our product. Or we could get somebody with product knowledge and train them with the skills they need, however in a busy organisation it’s difficult to find that time. An apprenticeship gave us a way that we can bring someone in to learn our product over the course of 12 months but they would also be getting the IT skills, at the same time.”
To test the programme Thomson Reuters Elite decided to take on one apprentice, Luke Elton who was chosen from a short-list of just two or three candidates to work initially with the consultancy department. The short recruitment process for an apprentice was also something that appealed to Thomson Reuters Elite as Baldwin confirms,
“We didn’t spend a lot of time interviewing people as the candidates were pre-vetted and so I had just one or two people rather than spend a whole day interviewing people.”
While Luke originally came into the consultancy department he now has been moved to the Support Desk team where he works on the frontline support team picking up the phone as customer questions come in. Initially Luke was just shadowing members and logging calls, but over time he has been given more and more responsibility and now answers calls he knows answers for, and can help with, and passes other more complicated questions on to other members of the team.
As well as the intensive week long training courses at Firebrand’s residential centre Firebrand also monitored Luke’s performance on a weekly basis and supplied Baldwin and Luke’s support desk mentor with weekly progress checks and more detailed monthly and quarterly performance reviews, as Baldwin explains:
“Charlotte from Firebrand comes here monthly and I can sit and talk to Charlotte if I need to. I try to be as hands off as possible. And I’ll just respond if they need to be pushed.”