Microsoft wants more students to ‘earn and learn’ in apprenticeships

Prime Minister Theresa May and Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, with Microsoft apprentices

Microsoft held a week-long series of events to encourage more people to “earn and learn” in apprenticeships.

The technology company, which aims to support the hiring of tens of thousands of new apprentices for its network of partners and customers by 2020, is keen to boost the number of apprentices in the UK to tackle the growing digital skills gap.

During National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), which ran from March 5 to March 9, Microsoft apprentice Ella Richardson spoke at Portcullis House in London about her experience, saying that she was given “the opportunity to prove to myself that I am more than someone who did not go to university”.

The company also worked with Amazing Apprenticeships – a national project to raise awareness of apprenticeships – to launch an employee volunteering programme that helps staff visit schools in their area and talk about apprenticeships in the technology sector. It also teamed up with gaming vlogger Clare Siobhan and Verge Magazine to encourage more young people to think about applying for apprenticeships.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, with Microsoft apprentices
Prime Minister Theresa May and Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, talk with Microsoft apprentices

Microsoft UK Chief Executive Cindy Rose said: “Apprentices play a critical role in many UK businesses and our economy. For our part, it’s very gratifying to see so many young people starting their careers here at Microsoft. Their enthusiasm to secure the necessary skills and experience to prepare themselves for a brighter future not only shapes their lives but ours, too.”

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. Apprentices are laying the foundations for their future every day. It is the job of government, business and society to help them reach their goals.”

The week culminated in a hackathon at Microsoft’s Reading-based UK headquarters on Friday, attended by Prime Minister Theresa May. She joined Rose in speaking with 30 past and present apprentices at Microsoft about how to encourage more women to apply for digital apprenticeships and increase awareness of such schemes and their benefits.

“Apprenticeships offer people of all ages and from all backgrounds the chance to deliver the skills our country needs,” the PM said. “Microsoft is one of many companies across the UK helping young people unlock their potential.

Prime Minister Theresa May with Microsoft apprentices
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Microsoft HR Director Andrea Winfield and apprentices

“It is always inspiring to see apprentices in roles they are passionate about and embarking on career paths they have chosen. It’s important that students who are deciding on the next step in their life are given access to all the opportunities open to them.

“We are working hard to make sure apprenticeships are a viable option for more young people and just as rewarding as higher education courses.”

During her speech at the Houses of Parliament, Microsoft apprentice Richardson said: “Going to university just didn’t feel right for me. I heard about the Microsoft Apprenticeship scheme through a friend and attended an open evening. I instantly knew it was the place I wanted to be.

“From the start I was given every opportunity to succeed, and the support mechanism at Microsoft is incredible. I can always rely on mentors and colleagues to help me with any issues. I have spent the past three years working and building a career that I am incredibly proud of. Being an apprentice at Microsoft has taught me determination, persistence and proactivity. It has given me the opportunity to prove to myself that I am more than someone who did not go to university.”

The Government has launched a £2bn-a-year apprenticeship scheme and has committed to creating three million apprenticeships by 2020. Ministers have also spoken of how apprenticeship programmes can offer young people a viable alternative to university and help people from all backgrounds launch their career.

Microsoft has launched a digital skills programme in the UK, which runs until 2020. Its aim is to ensure the country remains one of the global leaders in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies.

Rose added: “We recognise that we have a responsibility to prepare the workforce of today for the jobs of tomorrow with the right digital skills. We launched our digital skills programme because Microsoft has an important role to play in ensuring that the UK remains a global leader in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies.”

Microsoft will help to recruit an extra 30,000 digital apprentices through its own programme for its network of 25,000 partners in the UK; train 30,000 public servants for free in a range of digital skills; and make sure everyone in the UK has access to free, online digital literacy training that will prepare them for a world in which companies, schools and governments embrace technology to transform how they work.

Additionally, the technology firm also launched a Cloud Skills Initiative, which will train 500,000 people in the UK in advanced cloud technology.

Microsoft launched its apprenticeship programme in 2010 and since then the company has placed more than 14,000 people in roles with partners and customers.

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