A FORMER Noel-Baker Academy pupil who rapidly rose through the ranks of a leading tech company is encouraging other firms to provide an opportunity to an apprentice as the UK celebrates National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February).
Jack Buxton is Head of IT and Quality at Barron McCann; a hugely successful, family-owned business which provides IT services to customers throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, and has its headquarters in Derby.
The 26-year-old joined the company after leaving school on a Level 3 IT Apprenticeship for 12 months. He then advanced to a Level 4 IT Apprenticeship specialising as a network engineer and was only the second person in the UK to complete the BCS British Computer Society course.
He said: “An apprenticeship appealed to me as it was an early entry into employment. I wanted the real-world experience, but also wanted to gain a qualification so this was perfect.”
Jack became a fully-fledged IT engineer after completing his apprenticeship and, just two years later, was Lead IT Engineer. A further two years later, and Jack was promoted to IT manager where his role included managing and mentoring others.
His most recent promotion, in 2023, saw Jack become Head of IT and Quality.
“Barron McCann have been excellent in the support that they have given me,” added Jack.
“My job has a lot of responsibility that includes IT strategy, budgeting, resource allocation and reporting to senior management. I lead an internal team of IT engineers and analysts to deliver IT support services, and I also lead and advice on external customer projects. It can be a full-on job, but I enjoy it.
“I’ve been encouraged every step of the way, though, to grow and I now feel able to confidently pass on what I have learned as an apprentice to others within the company.”
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics reveals that apprenticeships are up by seven per cent to 130, 830 compared to 122,290 reported for the same period in the previous year.
Higher apprenticeships – the vocational equivalent to a Foundation University degree – continue to grow with a 9.9 per cent increase in the number of young people choosing this option.
Eighteen-year-old Noah, who is currently a Level 3 Assistant Accountant with Barron McCann, says that being in a relaxed office environment where he was given a phased introduction to work and support during his exams, has helped him to grow in confidence.
The ex-Kirk Hallam Community School pupil said: “I liked the fact that, throughout the 15 months of my apprenticeship, I was getting professional discussion – and getting paid.
“Barron McCann is a good place to work with a positive vibe. I was given a phased introduction into the team, as opposed to being thrown in at the deep end. That really helped me feel comfortable and not overwhelmed.
“In the run-up to exams, I’m allowed more time to focus on college work and my work mentor provides me with support and guidance with college work.”
Being given time to study for exams and on-the-job training is also what appealed to 18-year-old IT apprentice Herbie.
He said: “I receive mentorship and support from the whole IT team. This helps me learn new things and helps me gain evidence for my apprenticeship course.
“I am given the chance to learn at my own pace, and also given the time to grow.”
Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years. In fact, historians can go back as far as the mid-1500s.
They have, over the years, gone under various guises and many will remember to Youth Training Scheme – or YTS as it was often abbreviated to – that was launched in the 1980s.
A YTS proved the right option for Sam when he left school and enrolled on a microelectronics and computing course at Burton ITEC. He secured a placement with Barron McCann in 1996 as a workbench engineer and is now Head of Customer Success.
He said: “I wanted a practical, hands-on learning experience after leaving school and the course at Burton ITEC – a college that provided a YTS – was full-time.
“It encompassed both practical and theoretical training and, upon reaching a specified threshold of exam passes, the college assisted in securing a work placement.
“I remember getting a place with Barron McCann and being so excited. They were a distinguished microelectronic engineering company at the time and stood out as a prominent choice.
“Shortly after my arrival at Barron McCann, they devised a strategic plan to introduce in-house apprenticeships and training, and this was the start of my apprenticeship with the company. The benefits of an apprenticeship include acquiring hands-on skills such as disassembling products, safely testing them, seeking advice and guidance from colleagues and mastering effective communication with various team members and management.
“Over the years I have taken on different roles within the company and have always been supported. I would highly recommend considering an apprenticeship; you gain practical insights not only into the subject matter that you’re studying but also into the actual working dynamics of a business.
“It’s a great career choice.”