Cimlogic - The impact of an IT Apprentice
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Cimlogic are a Digital Manufacturing transformation company and rely heavily on technology to run their daily operations. In 2018 - with an increasing demand on their IT Support capacity - Cimlogic made the decision to expand the team and recruited Sarah, a Level 3 IT apprentice.
Three years later, Sarah is excelling in her role – recently passing her Level 4 apprenticeship with a distinction. We caught up with IT Manager Chris Borrowdale to hear about the role Sarah has played in revolutionising the IT department at Cimlogic:
At Cimlogic, we help our customers futureproof their manufacturing by providing digital services and solutions. We offer a client-centric methodology system called RAISE which provides businesses with a digital transformation roadmap.
For me and Sarah in the IT team, we have to support everybody using this system internally so the requirements for that can change daily. We also have to provide services and consultancy to our external customers – we’re a busy bunch!
I joined the business way back in 2008 as a Software Developer. As we grew, we realised that we had people who could code but we didn’t really have anyone that could provide IT support.
My role transitioned from software development into IT but as the company grew, the requirements of the IT team started to become a bottleneck. We knew we needed an extra pair of hands, so we decided to hire an apprentice with Baltic.
Having an apprentice in the team has been a resourceful way to grow - there’s more of us now. Sarah has become the smiley face of IT whereas I’m the grumpy IT Manager that has been around forever! Sarah has given the IT department a completely different dynamic for our colleagues and customers when providing them with IT support. We also have very different communication styles, Sarah doesn’t waffle like I do!
To be able to take more days off… (just kidding). We knew we needed an extra pair of hands.
Around the same time, my son had just started to take a big interest in cricket and I took up an informal role as a Junior Coach with his team. I found it incredibly rewarding watching people of different skill levels and different abilities grow and learn. It made me realise I loved teaching, and kind of missed it as I’d been working by myself for so long.
I’d delivered informal training to people from other departments who were on a secondment, but there wasn’t really anyone I was working with on a one-to-one basis to watch their development. From a personal point of view, I wanted to help someone start a career and watch them grow.
From a company point of view, we knew that I couldn’t be around forever. You’ve got to futureproof the team and bring a fresh set of ideas in. I liked the idea of an apprentice as I didn’t want to try and hire somebody with multiple years of experience in an IT department and try to get them used to how the IT team at Cimlogic operated. The entry point of an apprentice seemed a perfect fit.
Absolutely. When Sarah joined we had just adopted a new ERP system which she took the lead on and now she’s the expert on it! She’s first and second line support, if anyone has a question on it, they go to Sarah and not me, which is a first as I’ve been around for so long.
There’s a way I describe the approach I took in training Sarah, I pushed her out to sea and let her swim but I was always there with a life raft if she needed a hand. With this approach, she’s just gone from strength to strength. I always said to Sarah, give it a go, if you break something I’m pretty sure we can fix it! Now, she stands on her own two feet quite comfortably.
At the moment, Sarah is currently leading the IT side on the ISO270001 accreditation which is a massive achievement and no small task. She’s interacting with senior management on a daily basis, delivering the technical information they need to get us an industry-standard accreditation. It’s a worldwide accreditation and it’s very highly regarded.
Sarah is not considered an apprentice: she’s a team member and an important part of the company.
When Sarah walked in, she was quiet and reserved. Now – she struts around the office like she owns it! Just kidding, but people know she’s there and that they can approach her. Sarah still says yes more than no as she isn’t as grumpy as me - but she still has time to get there!
Sarah and I have developed a real partnership between us. The day we all went into lockdown, we block-booked a meeting every day at 10 o’clock and we would just chat. Whether we were talking about our plan for the day, catching up about football or dog walking, it didn’t really matter. As time has gone on, that’s become less and less of a requirement and more something we just enjoy doing.
In my eyes, Sarah is one of the reasons that we just got the Great Place to Work Award because she’s made Cimlogic a better place to work for everybody.
The technical training from Baltic was fantastic. There were many instances when we needed a task completing and Sarah had already learned how to carry this out in the SMART Classroom. This allowed her to put her training into practice straight away.
The training Sarah received from Baltic also gave me the flexibility to change our internal priorities; if Sarah had studied a topic that related to a task we had to complete, we could bring this forward which gave Sarah the opportunity to put her knowledge to the test.
The structure of the Baltic apprenticeship and the support from the Baltic team has been outstanding, and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you! We’ve worked with a number of people there, and throughout the contact levels have been fantastic.
The structure and flexibility of both programmes has been great. The Level 3 was more structured which was a good transition point for Sarah coming out of university and into a place of work. Baltic supported her closely in managing her apprenticeship work whilst having to meet the day-to-day business requirements. The Level 4 was more flexible and gave us the chance to tailor the programme to what Sarah was working on in her role.
The support from Baltic has helped Sarah grow probably as much as I have.
I’ve been involved in a lot of recruitment over the years and spoke to many recruitment agencies. Baltic’s recruitment process is hands-on but I never once felt pestered. They gave us a good selection of people to look at, they assisted us in filtering that down, and they facilitated all of the interviews.
We interviewed three candidates and all of them were a good fit for Cimlogic in different ways – so the approach Baltic take clearly works. I spoke with the recruitment team on the phone and it wasn’t just about giving technical requirements for a job, it was trying to give an idea of the Cimlogic culture.
Baltic clearly listen to this as everyone we interviewed displayed the qualities we asked for. This was so important as in my previous role, I recruited people with every technical qualification under the sun, but they didn’t embrace the company culture and therefore weren’t a great fit for the business.
100%, Baltic support this too as Sarah was delivered a presentation on their Future is Female campaign, which I am also a champion of. Apprenticeships are playing a massive role in challenging the perception that you have to be a certain gender, age or ethnicity to work in technology.
There have been times when Sarah has been the only woman in the room with IT knowledge but she has revolutionised our IT team and helped me grow – which sounds odd as I’m a grey haired old man but old dog, new tricks!
I have been in discussions with Baltic to bring in another apprentice who Sarah will mentor. This will give Sarah the chance to pass on her knowledge from her apprenticeship and help her grow. We’re still deciding on whether to bring in another Support Technician apprentice or to hire a Software Development apprentice, but with Sarah’s knowledge, she could provide incredible support and guidance to either.
To learn more about our IT apprenticeships, check out our courses below:
To read Sarah’s side of the story, check out our Q&A session on our apprentice case study page.