Virgin Media O2

At a time when skills shortages are rife, particularly in the tech sector, any organisation that can home-grow talent stands to be head and shoulders above the competition. And that’s exactly the approach the winner of Best apprenticeship scheme, telecoms giant Virgin Media O2, adopted.

With the newly merged entity responsible for maintaining communication infrastructure relied upon by millions, including broadband and 5G mobile networks, having the digital talent in place to ensure continuity and reliability is critical. The company, understanding that apprenticeships can solve skills shortages by opening up opportunities to a wide spectrum of society and giving those who have potential but lack qualifications or experience a chance, created 54 programmes and overhauled its recruitment process, doing away with requesting CVs altogether and focusing on candidates’ ‘attitude and aptitude’ to offer opportunities to groups underrepresented in the STEM sector, including women, people with lower socioeconomic backgrounds, disabled people and those from ethnic minorities.

Virgin Media O2 has committed to providing 1,000 apprenticeships through a combination of external entry-level recruitment and internal upskilling, and now offers roles from Level 2 up to Level 7 across a broad range of capabilities. The company has worked with stakeholders across the business to design and deliver apprenticeships that support its individual areas.

A significant aspect of its recruitment has been its schools outreach programme, which targeted 1,400 institutions across the country to highlight apprenticeships at the firm as a viable alternative to university, and also held employability skills events for up to 2,000 students at a time, which offered mock interviews and interactive sessions.

As well as seeing excellent rates of diversity across the board (18 per cent of offers are to women, 26 per cent to ethnic minorities and six per cent to disabled candidates), Virgin Media O2 also sees engagement levels among apprentices consistently above 80 per cent. Also, 98 per cent are proud to work for the company, and 70 per cent stay with the organisation for at least three years following the end of their programme. The company’s time to hire is also reduced on hard-to-fill roles.

The judges commended the scheme’s particular focus on social value, with its outreach activity “clearly benefiting and supporting young people from a range of diverse backgrounds”, as well as its “excellent” use of data.