In February 2011, RM Education entered into a new ten-year contract with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council for Dudley Grid for Learning (DGfL), building on a partnership first established in 1999. DGfL delivers all the ICT requirements of 108 schools in Dudley. The managed service supports all hardware, network infrastructure, software and connectivity including teaching aids such as interactive whiteboards. If a school has a specialist requirement RM can also deliver a bespoke solution. Educational Development Managers offer strategic curriculum advice and strategy to schools, Education Consultants can come into schools to provide training for teachers and Technical Account Managers provide technical advice on IT purchases and strategy. DGfL also delivers local and online helpdesk support, security advice, and web hosting.
Giving a helping hand
As part of the contract between Dudley Council and RM, every year two young people from Dudley are selected to work with RM as apprentices in a scheme which is proving popular and successful. Each apprentice completes a 20 week period with a certified training provider, during which time they complete CompTIA A+ (hardware) and CompTIA N+ (networking) training as well as other IT training, so they have a good basic understanding when they begin their placement. Most of the young people applying have just finished their GCSEs.
"I thought it would be beneficial to get some work experience and had heard of RM from being at school. I also had an interest in IT and wanted to learn more"
Josh Woodberry - One of the first to complete the apprenticeship scheme with RM
DGfL has already created jobs in the local area and this apprenticeship scheme is another way of leveraging employment opportunities.
Improving learning outcomes for young people
"Improving learning opportunities for young people should extend beyond their time at school and the provision of an apprenticeship scheme such as this really helps", explains Ian Curnow, DGfL Divisional Lead. The scheme is about personal development and training, helping young people with the transition from the world of school to the world of work. Josh believes the best thing about his time as an apprentice is that it has made him more employable. "This kind of scheme and the experience it offers is more important than ever, given the economic climate" continues Ian. "Choosing RM for their apprenticeship gives young people a good start in a busy technology environment, there are lots of transferable skills to pick up."
A real taste for work
Following on from training, the apprentices complete a six-month placement with RM and if successful are able to continue on for another six months. "The first two weeks were spent shadowing someone, a mentor from RM," says Josh. "This was someone I could talk to every week to discuss what I'd learnt during that week". The placement involved working in Dudley as part of the helpdesk team for the DGfL, dealing with queries from schools and answering calls to provide remote support. The apprentices quickly learn about taking calls, the expectations of the call and the technical details behind it.
"The apprentices are soon taking actual calls and rapidly take on more responsibility. They are experiencing a 'real world' working environment as part of a team who are the public face of the service"
Ian Curnow - DGfL Divisional Lead
Employability and productivity
After the first six month period both Josh and another apprentice were top performers in the team. There was great feedback from customers and a good turnover of calls, so it's an initiative that benefits not only the young person but RM as well. Gavin Brennan, Operations Team Leader at RM Dudley and line manager to the apprentices noted that they were all really motivated from day one, with every day bringing new experiences for them. Some of the key skills that Josh has learnt are good phone manners, the ability to resolve calls and an insight into the customer experience. These are all skills which are invaluable in the world of work and transferable to other roles. "After completing the apprenticeship scheme with RM, these young people are ready for the world of work. Having qualifications plus experience is very attractive to employers", says Ian.
A real success story
For Dudley Council, it has been demonstrated that an apprenticeship scheme can work effectively as part of a commercial contract and can establish a model of good practice. Would Ian recommend this to other Local Authorities? "Absolutely - this is a very good example of a contract delivering social objectives alongside its main purpose". Josh was offered a permanent role with RM once he had completed his year-long placement. "I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship scheme to other students, the way it's gone for me". For RM, Josh has been a great addition to the team, has integrated well and is still one of the top performers. All in all, a great story of RM and Dudley Council working together to help stimulate employment for young people.