Successful IT skills scheme enters its second phase
A recent initiative by Randox and eight other companies in Northern Ireland to address local IT skills shortages has proved such a success that nine more companies are now being asked to come on board.
Randox and the eight other businesses (Specialist Joinery Group, FP McCann, Bloc Blinds, CDE Global, Mallon Technology, Acorn IT Solutions, Spatialest and SDC Trailers) all of whom invest heavily in IT, collaborated with Northern Regional College to launch Career Encode, an innovative Earn As You Learn Higher Level Apprenticeship in Computing for school leavers.
Over 85 school-leavers and individuals considering a career change applied, exceeding all expectations. Due to the high calibre of applicants a total of 10 apprenticeships have been offered and are due to begin as early as June 2019.
Camilla Long, Director of Bespoke Communications, which specialises in training and leadership development, is acting as an independent facilitator for the nine employers. She explained why more companies should embrace innovative approaches of this nature to plug the skills gap;
“Recruiting new staff, and in particular IT staff, is one of the major challenges facing businesses today. The companies who took part in the Career Encode pilot were finding it increasingly difficult to find the right skills in their local area. As a result, they decided to take steps to develop their own labour force via this innovative Earn as You Learn Higher-Level Apprenticeship in Computing.
“We had a phenomenal response to the launch of the initiative. Over 85 young people applied, and the calibre of the applicants was exceptionally high. The young people who were interviewed were interested, engaged, motivated and willing to learn. There is clearly a need for opportunities of this nature.”
Ms Long added; “We are now looking for a further nine companies to join the second phase of the programme. If you are wondering why your business should join, the answer is simple. Career Encode will alleviate your technology staffing problems. It will allow you to grow your own skilled staff in a tight labour market, so you can develop employees with the skillset that you need.
“It will also further build your employer brand, so you can differentiate yourself and attract the very best candidates. We support you all the way, offering specialist workshops to help your team leaders mentor and manage your new apprentices. By working in collaboration with other like-minded companies you will be in a position to build a talent pipeline, so skill shortages are no longer an issue.”
Discussing the calibre of individuals that applied for the Career Encode apprenticeships, Jolene Carey, Randox Human Resources Officer, commented;
“Randox is a global provider of revolutionary medical diagnostics, and as such, IT underpins the delivery and support of all our mission-critical services. Our IT team are constantly exposed to the latest innovations and the Career Encode programme is an important part of our development plan for new talent.”
For further information about the Career Encode Programme please visit www.careerencode.com
Every year Randox offers university students exciting placements with an innovative and rapidly growing company.
These placements are specifically designed to unlock the potential of high quality candidates and provide them with the opportunity to truly make a difference to our business and our customers, and with the opportunity to gain the needed experience to pursue a career in their chosen fields.
Ross Meikle took the time to tell us all about his placement year working within the I.T. department here at Randox.
If you’re interested in a placement year with us, read on!
Hi Ross, what are you currently studying at University?
I am currently studying Computer Games Development at University of Ulster Magee.
Why did you choose to go down this career path/what attracted you to engineering?
During the first and second year of my degree I decided that Game Development wasn’t for me, and I had a much more keen interest in the Software Development modules that I had been taking. I have always been interested in computing and technology. To be in a position where I am using new technologies to design and develop software solutions appealed to me most.
How did you first hear about Randox?
I found the Randox placement through the University’s Placement searching tool, which then led to my application. After applying I contacted Randox to enquire further about the position and obtained an interview.
Why did you choose to carry out your placement year with Randox?
The description of the role given to me at my initial interview really appealed to me and the fact that I already had a little experience using some of the tools that the development use was encouraging. I was familiar with Visual Studio, and had completed one module using the programming language C# – which is the main language that the team here use. During the interview the Project Manager asked me a few technical questions and asked me to do a little coding which I felt very comfortable doing. He also talked to me about the language they use here at Randox and gave me a broad overview of what my responsibilities would entail. After leaving my interview for the placement position, I felt very positive about the whole experience and felt like I wanted to be a part of the team.
How have you found the experience so far?
My placement experience at Randox has been excellent. I completed my initial year of placement and then I was extended for an additional three months afterwards so that I could work right up until I went back to University. I am very happy that the company were prepared to continue my employment and allow me to develop my skills further. Since then I have also been brought back to do my final year project alongside Randox. I have made many friends during my time here, and I have learned significantly more during my placement than I have in any University year.
Have you been working in a supportive environment?
I have been working with the IT Software Development team during my placement. When I started the department was named Acusera 247. There isn’t a single person in this department that hasn’t helped me in some way or another, including the operations team. My team leader has always been able to provide the answer to any issue or question I have had along the way and provided those answers in an informative way that helped me to learn. My Project Manager has also supported me by providing me with all the opportunities I have had throughout my time here, including the final year project I am currently undertaking.
What do your main duties include? Have you been given much responsibility?
After the initial training phase and once I had become more settled within the team, I was made to feel like an equal and capable full time member of staff. I was working alongside other full time developers of varied experience, developing projects that were important and under tight time constraints. I was also tasked with completing a Security Project for the company’s IT department. For this I had to create an Outlook Security Add in which the IT security officer Craig requested. The add in requires all company communication mediums to be given a security level which would ensure that only users with the required access level could read emails or access the files. I have been given a lot of responsibility throughout my placement and it has definitely made me a much more capable and confident person.
What do you enjoy doing the most?
I think the highlight for me during my placement was the Web Development that I did alongside the team in the last quarter of my placement. I was working on Acusera Verify alongside the other developers to a strict deadline. I was given a list of bugs which had been identified in the website and I had to identify the issue in the code and fix it. This process was very rewarding and it made me more confident knowing that my manager/team leader trusted me to be able to provide what was asked.
Have you been met with any challenges? How have you overcame them?
When I started my placement I felt that my coding ability was not what it should be, and I felt that I would struggle whenever the work became more complicated. What I found however was that being tasked with complicated work was the best way for me to learn. It encouraged me to learn fast and it encouraged me greatly to communicate with my team and improve my understanding. I was also challenged initially with the individual assignment I was given, the Security Application for IT. It was challenging, but through hard work and a supportive and extremely knowledgeable team behind me, it became more than achievable.
How has your placement experience with Randox compare to that of your friends who have also had a placement year in engineering?
The two friends that I lived with in my first and second years in University had very different paths than myself during their placement year. One of them was unable to achieve a placement and he ended up walking away from his degree. The other enrolled on the Erasmus program and did his placement in another University in Finland. Other people that I know have been placed with companies and have had both good and bad experiences. I feel very privileged to have had my placement with Randox and comparatively I seem to have gained a lot more from it than quite a number of others.
How has Randox worked with you to ensure that you are still able to work part time at Randox since finishing your placement?
My Project Manager has assisted me in contacting the right people within the company in order to propose the project and get it started. I wrote up a Project Initialization Document which detailed the design, drawbacks, benefits and costs of the project and it was reviewed by my superiors. I was recently sent a full offer pack and given all the information I required, along with a Staff identity/Clock Card to access the building. I have also been provided with a company computer and submitted a purchase order for the components I need for the project.
What you have learnt/skills you have developed from your placement?
What have you been working on recently?
Since I returned as a part time employee, I have been working on the project I am using as my final year project, but I can’t give away too much detail on that yet.
Have you seen the Science Park? What was your first impression?
When I returned as a part time employee I was in the Randox Science Park and that is where I am located now. It is a significant change from where I was previously and I am both impressed by it and very comfortable here. The working environment that we have now feels much more professional. We have ready access to facilities we didn’t have before including dedicated storage areas, a build room for the connects and access to meeting rooms with interactive technologies – it really is a first class facility. I am sure it has and will continue to improve the quality of the work produced here.
What was the highlight of your placement year with Randox? Do you have a favourite memory?
There have been a lot of great experiences throughout my placement year, but the memory that stands out most was my last day. The team set up a lunch for me and all said their goodbyes. My Project Manager then gave me a conditional Job offer which is what I had wanted most all along. It summarised the year for me and ended things on a very positive note.
We are delighted that Ross enjoyed his placement with Randox and we wish him the best of luck for his upcoming dissertation project!
For more information on our student placement or graduate programme please contact Randox HR team or check out our website Randox Careers.