Apprenticeship case studies

Cisco IT Systems – Networking Level 4 Apprenticeship

QA worked with Cisco to develop an apprenticeship programme to help young people master complex technical skills.

Meet our client and partner: Cisco

Cisco is a worldwide leader in IT that develop networking, telecommunications and high technology products and services.

In 2011, Cisco implemented its first apprenticeship scheme in the UK in partnership with QA. In total from 2011 to 2017, Cisco has placed 63 digital apprentices at Levels 3 and 4 with QA. 36 of those are expected to progress onto our Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship in 2017.

QA Apprenticeships

Fittingly, a Cisco apprentice also marked a crucial and significant milestone for QA, placing our 10,000th apprentice in technology.

Cisco had confidence to appoint QA due to our proven ability to deliver quality at scale. In total, QA currently has over 2,000 apprentices on digital apprenticeship standards.

This scale of operation is possible due to:

  • the technical efficiencies delivered via digital platforms such as our virtual learning environment and learner management system;
  • access to 30 years’ experience in IT and digital education;
  • and a human resource capital of over 203 technology trainers.

In terms of overall scale and experience, QA has delivered over 14,000 apprenticeships since 2008.

This case study focuses on 11 apprentices at Cisco in 2015, trebling to 36 apprentices in 2016 on the IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals Level 4 Framework (before the apprenticeship standards came into effect).

QA’s IT Level 4 Apprenticeship for CISCO:

The programme structure QA designed for Cisco comprised 10 modules over 18 months with work-based skills coach support every 6 to 8 weeks. Each module had a classroom workshop with skills coach-supported workplace modules.

Face-to-face learning was via block release within a structured work-based learning programme, helping apprentices make continued progress, be productive and gain mastery in their subject by regularly applying their skills in context between each module.

QA designed the programme structure and learning content to develop skills and competencies to meet predefined learning outcomes agreed with Cisco, to:

  • Attract more young people and women into the tech sector
  • Create a robust programme for apprentices to master technical networking skills and specific proprietary Cisco skills
  • Certify apprentices with Cisco qualifications
  • Get young people into IT careers and progress them from Level 1 to Level 6
  • Develop balanced soft skills
  • Continue apprentices on careers with Cisco as Network Engineers

Due to the complexity of the subject matter to master specific technical and proprietary Cisco skills, QA designed an initial 4-week boot camp to fully immerse apprentices in the subject. Apprentices had access to remote labs and online learning material supported by Cisco to enhance their learning experience and to help further embed learning. This blended learning structure also provided Cisco with flexibility and scalability of access to the programme.

To meet Cisco’s requirement to develop balanced soft skills, QA included non-technical modules in the learning programme to cover communication, presentation and organisation skills. The designed learning content of the programme included:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) boot camp;
  • communicate effectively;
  • present with impact;
  • organising work and time;
  • leading virtual teams;
  • research skills;
  • systems development and IT consulting skills;
  • data communications and networking;
  • project management;
  • and network operating systems.

We developed the programme to meet these requirements by evaluating Cisco apprentices since 2011, aligning the programme with Cisco objectives, and leveraging the expertise of QA’s learning division to develop the soft skills content they required. With year-on-year success and a great working partnership, QA and Cisco had a clear understanding of the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to achieve the apprenticeship and successfully progress into full-time employment at Cisco.

How QA supported Cisco throughout the programme

A dedicated QA account director was a single point of contact to manage the relationship with Cisco. Administration and management of the curriculum happened through QA’s service team, supported by our compliance and delivery teams, to provide both the employer and apprentices with enquiry management, programme and venue scheduling, management information reports, service level tracking, billing and Education and Skills Funding Agency compliance advice and guidance.

All training was delivered by highly-skilled tutors who were qualified Cisco engineers with several years’ experience in network design, implementation and consultancy. A skills coach with proven technical, mentoring and coaching skills supported apprentices throughout their journey, agreeing their Individual Learning Plan and tracking progress through formal reviews in the workplace every 6 to 8 weeks to make sure they were on track to successfully complete the programme and progress into full-time employment with Cisco.

The results for Cisco:

  • QA designed a learning content and specialist boot camp to create a robust programme for apprentices to master technical networking skills and specific proprietary Cisco skills.
  • We included soft skills modules in learning content to develop balanced soft skills.
  • All 36 apprentices were expected to progress onto our Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship in 2017, progressing to Level 6 qualifications.
  • All 36 apprentices continuing their careers with Cisco.

This cohort of apprentices are not due to finish their apprenticeship until 2017, however we already have promising indicators of the results. The success of this challenging training curriculum in developing the required knowledge, skills and behaviours is evidenced by all 36 apprentices being on track for completion and progression onto a Level 5 and 6 Degree Apprenticeship in 2017.

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