A talented workforce is fundamental to business success and, thanks to a longstanding apprenticeship partnership with Northern Skills, international software firm Sage is continuing to realise its goals. Here, Steven Hugill speaks to award-winning apprentice Adam Tinning about how the alliance’s vocational learning programme has catalysed his career, and hears too from Middlesbrough College Group’s Matt Telling and the technology company’s Vicky Rowland and Lisa Miller to learn more about the organisations’ fruitful relationship.
A company’s growth is contingent on many things, not least a robust talent pipeline.
Just ask Sage.
Though renowned it may be for game-changing business accounting, payroll and HR software, the firm’s success is equally predicated on an accompanying skilled workforce guiding customers across their myriad journeys.
And helping it do so is Northern Skills.
Having struck up an alliance seven years ago, the relationship is today stronger than ever, with the dedicated apprenticeship and training arm of Middlesbrough College Group continuing to ensure Newcastle-based Sage has access to the very best workers of tomorrow.
Central to the partnership is the delivery of courses that nurture staff for customer support and marketing roles, across levels two and four, respectively.
And it works.
A strong cohort of former Sage apprentices now occupy senior roles, their careers catalysed by a combination of real-world experience and classroom- based learning.
It includes Adam Tinning, who, having begun in a customer support position, is now helping oversee the expansion of a flagship HR platform.
He says: “I left school in 2020, just as COVID-19 hit, and, knowing university wasn’t for me, began looking at jobs.
“I was taken on in October of that year on Sage’s apprenticeship programme, and worked on the phones and webchat, taking operational queries across payroll and accounting services, which gave me a great introduction to the business.”
With his ability and can-do attitude complemented by knowledge accrued on day-to-day office tasks and further insight gleaned from the academic element of his two-year Northern Skills course, Adam’s stock quickly began to rise.
Such was his progress that the 20-year-old, who hails from Benton, North Tyneside, was named apprentice of the year and customer service apprentice of the year at a recent Northern Skills awards ceremony, and dubbed ‘one to watch’ by bosses at North East-founded Sage.
While the accolades were incoming, however, Adam was looking outwards, using the platform built by his apprenticeship to take the next steps in his career.
He says: “Whenever I do something, I do it to the best of my ability, and during my apprenticeship, I was constantly thinking about what might be next.
“I knew I didn’t want to leave Sage – I love the organisation and what it stands for – so I took on more responsibilities, to broaden my knowledge and experience, while looking at opportunities internally.
“I acted as a team manager, did a lot of coaching, helped employees coming into the business and shadowed other departments to find out what suited me.
“And it led to my current role, as a customer success consultant for Sage HR, which I began in October.
“I maintain customer relationships, making sure there are no issues for those using the platform while helping with additional modules to further support businesses processes,” says Adam, whose apprenticeship ended in March last year.
He adds: “The relationship between Sage and Northern Skills has been fantastic for me; it really helped get my career started.”
Matt Telling, group director of business engagement and partnerships at Middlesbrough College Group, is equally effusive, highlighting the many strands of opportunity apprenticeships provide to weave longstanding careers.
He says: “The model is tried and tested; we train anywhere between 1500 and 2000 apprentices every year, and it provides so much scope for building a foundation of skills.
“Earning while you learn, while banking fantastic experience, throws up openings to make great strides.
“Just look at Adam; to see a young man driving himself forward, with so many prospects, is brilliant.”
Matt adds: “We’re really proud to be working with Sage to nurture local talent, and are looking forward to helping its workforce of the future follow in Adam’s footsteps.
“But we couldn’t do it without great people like Vicky Rowland – Sage UK and Ireland’s early careers lead – and Lisa Miller – the company’s early careers talent acquisition partner – and their teams.
“They invest some much time, money and energy into offering opportunities for people that make a huge difference.”
Adam’s journey, says Vicky, illustrates perfectly the software company’s succession planning framework, which places great emphasis on looking locally to source its next generation of senior figures.
She says: “If you are genuine about breaking down employment barriers, there is no better way to do that than by establishing a robust apprenticeship programme.
“By enabling apprenticeships with providers like Northern Skills, we are allowing people in the community to be successful and progress their careers to a high level.
“Our apprentices are on exactly the same path as our graduates and interns – they are the future leaders.
“And Adam is a great example of how our programme with Northern Skills enables people to grow.
“During his assessment period, he was very nervous, but as soon as he started his course, he excelled.
“After nine months, he presented his case study to thousands virtually at a CIPD conference, and received a standing ovation.”
Vicky adds: “There is a real sense of togetherness here – whether you are an apprentice, graduate or intern, you are part of the Sage UK and Ireland community, and there are mentors available every step of the way to support your journey.
“We offer apprenticeships from level two to six, and there is something for everybody.
“Our opportunities go beyond school leavers and 16 to 25-year-olds, they are available too for those who are older and looking to return to work and learn a new trade.”
Lisa adds: “There is nothing better than watching apprentices move into their associate roles.
“Whether they stay in the same team, or move to something else, it is great to see them progress.”