CGI and Winchester: offering the best of both worlds in degree apprenticeships

8 Mar 2019
CGI apprentices celebrate

In our second blog marking National Apprenticeship Week (4-8 March), we highlight our relationship with partner employer CGI and hear first-hand from a recent CGI graduate about the benefits of a degree apprenticeship.

Stella McKnight, Director of Employer Partnerships, University of Winchester

The University has worked in collaboration with leading IT and business consulting organisation CGI since 2006, first supporting the design and delivery of their original Sponsored Degrees and more now their Degree Apprenticeships. A key part of that role is supporting the process of recruiting Apprentices: we host regular advice and information sessions for young people and their parents to find out more about this career route.

CGI apprentices are studying at the University of Winchester Business School on a number of our Digital and Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship programmes, which are designed to meet the wide range of roles within CGI's business, for example, as software developers and testers; business analysts; cyber analysts, and data analysts.

Higher level apprenticeships help employers like CGI to develop their existing employees or introduce new talent into their business by integrating on-the-job practical training with academic learning.

They are also ideal for people seeking to fulfil their potential through combining their learning in this way. Apprentices typically spend a day each week studying at Winchester, with the rest of the time applying knowledge gained in the lecture theatre at work. Scroll down to read about recent CGI graduate Maria Whittingham's experience on the degree apprenticeship programme.

Employers interested in finding out more about partnering with the University of Winchester to develop a degree apprenticeship programme should email: degreeapprenticeships@winchester.ac.uk

CGI: employer profile

Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent IT and business consulting services organisations in the world with 74, 000 professionals serving clients from hundreds of locations across the globe. 'Blaze a Trail' is the theme for this year's National Apprenticeship Week and CGI has been 'trailblazing' apprenticeships since 2007.

We introduced our first apprenticeship programme in partnership with the University of Winchester in 2007, called the 'Sponsored Degree' (now Degree Apprenticeship). The programme enabled Apprentices to gain valuable work experience working for us whilst earning a salary and studying towards their full Bachelor's Degree with the university, debt free.

The programme proved to be so successful that we are now in our 12th cycle of recruitment. In 2007, 13 students joined the programme and 12 years later we have supported over 200 students through to their graduation, with many more currently studying. We have also expanded our programmes to offer Higher Apprenticeships and additional Degree Apprenticeships in England and Scotland (called Graduate Apprenticeships).

One of the main advantages of apprenticeships is the potential for accelerated learning by combining work with study. Our Apprentices are highly successful and many get promoted within CGI before they even complete the programme. This is primarily due to the work experience they gain on the programme and the fact that they are able to apply the theory they learn in the classroom to their role within CGI. Our programmes are also Tech Industry Gold standard, which is the industry accreditation for Digital and Tech Degrees and Degree Apprenticeships.

Another advantage of our apprenticeships is that they provide Apprentices with academic skills and industry accreditation via their valuable work experience. They are in a role relevant to the qualification they are studying whilst on the course, as well as getting the opportunity to gain experience working for our different clients and different technologies, which in turn gives them greater breadth of experience.

We believe we are trailblazers by offering our students the experience to work on real-life, globally-recognised projects in all areas of the organisation; from Government to Space, Defence and Intelligence. We are also passionate about our student opportunities and the value Apprentices can bring and will continue to offer trailblazing apprenticeships for years to come.

Maria Whittingham, Student Recruitment Specialist at CGI and graduate in BA (Hons) Business Management for IT

I joined CGI through their apprenticeship programme with the University of Winchester, graduating in 2017.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I left school but like many, ideally I wanted to go to university and gain a degree. However, university debt was a worry for me and having looked into different courses at different universities, I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. In the end, I applied to study Law and received an offer from my first-choice university.

Realising full-time study wasn't what I wanted to do, I started to look in to apprenticeships and I was amazed - I couldn't believe that employers offered the chance to gain an industry-recognised qualification debt free, provide work experience and offer a salary. I applied for different opportunities, attended the assessment day at CGI and later accepted the job! I joined CGI in 2014 and graduated in 2017 with first-class honours.

I enjoyed being able to apply my learning at university to the workplace, something that you're not able to do in full-time study. I could also see that what I was learning was relevant to my career, for example we completed modules on project management whilst I was in a project management role at CGI.

On CGI's programme, you get the best of both worlds in terms of support too. Not only do you have the same support at university as full-time students, but you get the extra support from the workplace. CGI has 'Workplace Mentors', senior members of the business who have volunteered their time to support Degree Apprentices with their university modules. Each student also has a manager to help them with day-to-day activities and a buddy who is able to answer any general queries.

Having gradated, I am now a Student Recruitment Specialist within CGI. I have been promoted and now recruit for our school leaver programmes across the UK, also managing the marketing activities for our UK programmes. I'm passionate about recruiting apprentices into CGI!

My top tip for anyone considering an apprenticeship? Just apply! Also, don't 'judge a book by its cover'. Just because CGI is an IT firm, doesn't mean that we're only looking for IT Apprentices. We offer 16 variations of programmes with our training providers across the UK including Business, Data Analytics, Cyber-security and Tech.

I've never regretted my decision to do a Degree Apprenticeship and CGI was the perfect place for me to do it. In partnership with the University of Winchester, the programme has been developed and adapted since it launched in 2007. We have been trailblazers within the apprenticeship industry and I am proud to say I have been a part of it.

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