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BT Wholesale apprenticeships: nurturing the next generation

BT Wholesale’s apprenticeship scheme has been shortlisted for two awards: CRN Sales and Marketing Award for Best Graduate and/or Apprenticeship Scheme, and Comms Dealer Sales and Marketing award for Best Apprenticeship Scheme. Here we explain more about the scheme and why it’s so important to us.

BT is a leading employer of apprentices in the UK and invests in training thousands of people, empowering them with the digital skills they need to prosper in the working world. We place a huge emphasis on nurturing the next generation, understanding it’s a long-term investment.


Given the current climate and sweeping changes COVID-19 is making to the economy, unemployment is a scary prospect for many young people – particularly those who don’t fit the traditional university mould. Large companies have a responsibility to tackle this problem head on and inspire young talent at a time when they need it most, because potential is not defined by grades. 


What’s more, as the world becomes accustomed to ‘the new normal’ – which has been accelerated by the pandemic – the way we work gets increasingly digital every day. The employees entering the workforce now are digital natives and at BT we’re embracing this change and are well prepared for to empower the latest talent.


An alternative to university 

With the costs of university rising and uncertain career prospects upon graduation, apprenticeships have recently enjoyed a resurgence, becoming widely recognised as a valid alternative to university-led degrees. We offer apprenticeship entry points at both GCSE and A-level; providing the opportunity to develop valuable life skills and attain professional qualifications, as well as building the foundations of a career. 

At the moment and specifically within BT Wholesale we help to support 276 apprentices in their development, providing insight and opportunities across BT Group’s wider operations and key-teams; from business management to cyber security, and sales and marketing. 

With such variety in academic level and job-roles, no matter the apprentice’s background and interests, BT Wholesale has a role for them to flourish in as they mature into a fully developed member of the team. 


Diversity and inclusion 

Our business attracts people from all walks of life, and we value the diverse perspectives they bring.

Alison Wilcox, HR Director , BT Group


Apprenticeships are a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn the skills they need to build successful careers. 


It’s no secret that the UK is facing a skills shortage and COVID-19 has altered what the talent pool looks like. If we want to solve the pipeline problem, working in technology needs to be a clear career path that everyone, regardless of race, socio-economic background, and gender, can aspire to. The industry still has a long way to go but offering accessible apprenticeship and graduate schemes is a step in the right direction. We need to create roles people genuinely see themselves pursuing. 


The BT apprentice experience

Apprentices begin their journey with induction and training days across BT Wholesale, which sets them up for success and provides them with information to navigate the organisation. Furthermore, all apprentices are rotated across multiple teams; gaining deeper insight into the wider operation of BT and developing relevant skills.


To ensure apprentices are supported and reach their full potential, each is assigned a learning buddy. This allows them to ask questions they might not feel confident putting to a manager and addresses any gaps in their knowledge.


Additionally, we take a blended learning approach. The majority of training takes place on the job but at least 20% of apprentices’ time is leveraged for classroom-based learning – whether online, at a local college or a specialist training organisation. This strategy culminates in a vocational qualification which is indispensable in their future career. 


How we know it’s working  

We are incredibly proud of all our apprentices, and their success is a testament to both the scheme and their hard work. One shining example is Callum Elsdon who joined in 2016 and is already being recognised for his performance, receiving a “Highly Commended” at the London Degree Apprentice of The Year event in November 2019. 


But don’t just take our word for it. Callum says, “BT Wholesale has given me the tools to grow and the opportunity to make an impact. They put so much trust in their apprentices and give them the support to flourish and get the most out of their different rotations.”


What’s more, BT Wholesale has experienced year-on-year growth in its number of apprentices, and nearly 80% of apprentices that qualified five years ago are still with the business. More than half of them have also had at least one promotion. 

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, recently said of BT: “I applaud their continued support and investment in apprenticeships. The digital economy is booming and we need to make sure we can continue to build the skilled workforce.”


Preparing for the future

Our applicants are attracted by the size and scope of BT, the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and the fully funded qualifications they end up with. For BT Wholesale, apprentices introduce new points of view, keeping the business forward-thinking and innovative in its approach. 


Navigating the choppy waters of the pandemic have been hard but as we continue to look towards the future, our apprentices and graduates are firmly in sight. We understand it’s a long-term investment, but it’s one we’re happy to make.

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