Training the next generation of ITAM

30 May 2023
10 minute read
Best practice

Training the next generation of ITAM

30 May 2023
10 minute read

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Chloe Mackay, a Level 6 Project Management Apprentice at Vodafone, along with her boss, Julia Veall, Asset Management Senior Manager at Vodafone about the challenges of training the next generation of ITAM professionals. You can look out for their talk, “The Apprentice – You’re hired!” taking place on the second day of Wisdom EMEA 2023.

Julia Veall, Vodafone

As a real advocate of the ITAM industry and someone who has dedicated much of her career to getting more girls and women into STEM, Julia has a real passion – dare I say a personal mission – to see ITAM building the next generation. “ITAM is not doing a very good job of attracting new talent into the industry. Many of the senior practitioners are of a certain age where retirement isn’t far away. If their skills and knowledge aren’t replaced the industry risks taking a massive step back. It’s vitally important we don’t step back as an industry. We’ve reached a very hard-fought position vis a vis the vendors and built a really good community. But if we lose all this experience the vendors will take back control and we’ll be on the back foot again. I don’t have all the answers, but I know we need to fix the recruitment issue. You can’t just jump into ITAM. It takes years to become an effective practitioner, so we need to be training the next generation now.”

Why did Chloe choose an apprenticeship over a degree?

I was particularly interested to know what drove Chloe down the apprenticeship route, especially given the context of a UK schooling system which is still largely geared to promoting the traditional University route of tertiary education, despite the growth in the number and variety of apprenticeships out there, including many at degree level.

Chloe Mackay, Vodafone

Chloe was very clear in her answer; “I’m getting the exact same degree as my peers but without the student debt. I will have 4 years’ experience in a large, well-known and reputable company, working with professionals and mentors, building skills and knowledge, and getting a salary at the same time. This is also great for building my personal brand and getting on the career path early.”

Chloe applied for university places in addition to apprenticeships and was fortunate to have offers from all the universities she applied for. “I weighed up the pros and cons of university vs. the Vodafone apprenticeship, but in the end the decision was an easy one. I know 100% I made the right decision and would make it again in a heartbeat.”

The niche option?

Despite their growth through significant government incentives in recent years, apprenticeships remain a niche or secondary option in the minds of most students, colleges, and Sixth Forms. There still appears to be a misperception that apprenticeships are for those who cannot get into university, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Chloe had to jump through far more hoops to secure her place at Vodafone than with any of her university offers. You can tell from speaking with her that she’s very bright and capable and that any university would be lucky to have her. If anything, degree level apprenticeships like Chloe’s are now the ‘Top Prize’ sought by students, not the consolation prize.

When you look at the numbers you get a better sense as to why apprenticeships remain a niche option for students. Despite significant growth , there were still just 349,190 new apprenticeship intakes in the full academic year 2021/22, with less than a third of these (106,400) being the Higher / Degree Level equivalents. Contrast this with the 1.7 million university undergraduates starting their courses during the same period and you can see why apprenticeship placements are so difficult to secure and remain a niche option for most. For many young people, the relative certainty of securing a university place vs an apprenticeship must be very appealing.

But for those who can make it through the rigorous selection process, the rewards are clear. Chloe for example had to make it through five knockout phases to secure one of the three apprenticeships at Vodafone that year, including a “Big Brother” style automated video interview in which she was given 30 second chunks to record verbal answers to a series of questions. The first time she spoke with a human being at Vodafone was in the fifth and final stage.

“ITAM picked me”

As is so often the case with careers in ITAM, Chloe did not apply for an ITAM role directly. She was a Project Management Apprenticeship, not an ITAM apprentice specifically. ITAM found her, or more accurately, Julia chose her.

For Julia, having had one or two apprentices previously, she simply had to have one again. “I’ve always found apprentices to be brilliant because they bring new thinking into the team. They challenge your own way of thinking and ask far more ‘Why?’ questions than someone else that may have transitioned from another role. They’re also committed to you for 4 years, so you have that security of being able to train them to be real assets to the team.”

Chloe’s particular course of Project Management appealed to Julia too. “Previous apprentices had come from software engineering courses, so they moved into the cloud teams once they graduated.” While a great asset for Vodafone, but less beneficial for solving ITAM’s recruitment and retention problem… “A programme manager role is far more relevant to ITAM long term. We have demands from all over the business and Chloe’s skillset is invaluable in helping us to organise our workloads better.”

A painful truth? Are University degrees still good value for money?

After speaking with Chloe I was inspired to look into the cost of university today. In England specifically, the average student is expected to graduate with a student loan debt of £45,800, meaning the UK now has the largest student loan debt per borrower in the developed world – even higher than the USA.

The government now estimates only 1 in 5 students starting university this year will ever pay off their student loans in full. This issue is exacerbated by the amount of interest that is charged on the debt being inflation linked (currently set at RPI + 3%). While the rate is already a 7.3% PA, given that RPI has remained in double digits throughout 2023 it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Student Loan Interest Rate jump to a wholly unsustainable 13%+ based on this model.

Ultimately, the Student Loan has become a de facto Graduate Tax, where most graduates will be charged 9% of their earnings for the rest of their life (most students in England start to pay off their loan once their salary reaches £27,288 or more a year, at a rate of 9% of their salary). Perhaps it is no wonder young people like Chloe were so motivated to do an apprenticeship instead.

Could apprenticeships help to deliver the next generation of ITAM?

Those responsible for recruitment within ITAM would do well to promote apprenticeships at their company alongside the more traditional graduate recruitment route in order to train the next generation of ITAM professionals.

As Julia and Chloe have explained, apprenticeships are very appealing for both the student and the employer. The student benefits from working in a professional environment from day 1, gets paid and doesn’t leave with a debt around their neck for the rest of their working life. For the employer, they gain highly motivated, productive and loyal new talent who can deliver value almost immediately, and thanks to generous government incentives, for relatively little investment.

The biggest hurdle is the painfully low number of apprenticeship schemes out there; this is where the industry needs to step up to solve the recruitment problem together. Every company with an ITAM department, every reseller, MSP, and ITAM tools vendor should be looking to launch their own ITAM apprenticeships, while at the same time working with universities to raise awareness of ITAM as a potential career path for graduates.

Notes and follow up

Attend Wisdom EMEA 2023

Learn more about the value that Gen Zs bring to the workplace by attending “The Apprentice – You’re hired!” Chloe and Julia’s talk at Wisdom EMEA 2023.

Where to find an apprenticeship?

If there is a young person in your life who you think would make a great ITAM apprentice, or could simply benefit from researching apprenticeships route as a potential alternative to a degree, Chloe recommended the following resources which she used to find and secure her place with Vodafone:

  • GetMyFirstJob – a great resource to visit well before you are looking for that first job. You can also chat to ambassadors like Chloe who will happily talk to you about their experience
  • UCAS – the place to go for both University courses ,apprenticeships and post-grad
  • notgoingtouni

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