Young people from Inverness-based IT specialist The Apprentice Store have connected with young social entrepreneurs in East London during lockdown to help them acquire much needed digital skills and get their businesses online.
The Apprentice Store is participating in an accelerator programme specifically for social enterprises organised by the EY Foundation, which seeks to help young people facing barriers to entering work and supports social entrepreneurs. Also participating in the programme is Social Ark, a charity based in Tower Hamlets in East London. Social Ark supports young people from under-resourced East London communities to use their lived experiences to develop social businesses of their own.
However, had it not been for the lockdown, the two organisations would never have met. David Massey, managing director of The Apprentice Store, explained: “There are 43 socially driven organisations on the 12 month Accelerate Programme and nine of them are based in Scotland. Prior to lockdown, we met once a month in person but only within our respective regional groups. Once lockdown began the format changed to a virtual delivery with coffee mornings open to all regional groups. That’s how I met the truly inspiring Lisa Stepanovic, founder and CEO of Social Ark.”
David and Lisa hit it off immediately and it soon became apparent that not only did they share the same values and goals of supporting young people to build a better future for themselves, but that there was a way that The Apprentice Store and Social Ark could come together and do something really amazing during lockdown.
Just before lockdown, many of the Social Ark young entrepreneurs were in the early stages of launching their social enterprises. However, the entrepreneurs struggled to move forward. Lisa quickly identified the need for each of their organisations to have a greater web presence, enabling them to adapt their services around the pandemic.
David worked out that The Apprentice Store could help. He and Lisa developed a programme and over four weeks, five young social entrepreneurs worked closely with The Apprentice Store team developing their websites and gaining the skills needed to manage and maintain their websites.
Supporting David in the programme was Jordan Whyte, aged 18 from Nairn, who has been a web developer with the Apprentice Store since 2019. Over a series of four weeks, David and Jordan did weekly group sessions with the entrepreneurs in East London and Jordan also provided one-to-one sessions. They covered basic WordPress so that they could build websites and they also covered Google Analytics, SEO, e-commerce and cyber security.
Jordan described the coaching experience: “This was something completely different for me. I am an apprentice myself and still learning, so to be the coach and teach people web development skills from scratch was quite daunting at first but by the end of the four weeks, I felt proud of myself and what we’d achieved.”
The Apprentice Store supported a diverse group of young entrepreneurs, each with completely different social enterprises. These included Time to Shine – a commercial and residential cleaning business; YUCAN – an organisation that advocates for young carers under the age of 16; Your Life More Life – an organisation that seeks to support young people to overcome the effects of violence and poverty; Huriah Hemp – an ethical clothing brand that creates T-shirts for change; and True Cadence – an organisation that uses the power of music and video to engage young people.
Speaking about the collaboration, Lisa Stepanovic said: “I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved together. Throughout lockdown, our vision, values and commitment to our young people and their communities drove us forward. The Social Ark and The Apprentice Store partnership would never have come to light without the Coronavirus pandemic. If you’d have told me a few months ago that our young entrepreneurs would be working with young people from the Highlands, I simply wouldn’t have believed it! I’m confident that what we achieved together over just a few weeks could serve as a blueprint for future collaboration. Shared values and a sense of community have no boundaries.”
The young social entrepreneurs are extremely grateful for the support from The Apprentice Store and are optimistic about the future.
Emmanuel Ebokosia, founder of True Cadence said: “David was patient and willing to go through things in a way I’d understand. He was on hand to provide support, especially with the coding. I learnt how themes actually work and the different functionalities within WordPress, this enabled me to better utilise the features. It feels good to have an e-commerce website, it’ll enable me to do a lot more, especially when I start selling my courses. Thank you to David and the Apprentice Store team, and also Social Ark for the opportunity.”
Sanyu Musoke, founder of YUCAN Reach, explained: “Over 4 weeks during the Covid19 Lockdown, David and Jordan from the Apprentice Store coached a group of us at Social Ark, supporting us to develop our own websites. Tech really isn’t my thing and I did struggle a bit at first. The team spent lots of 1:1 time with me, going above and beyond, helping me to design and launch the YUCAN website. I’ve learned how to use WordPress and how to update it properly. I’m so excited to have my own website now. Thank you, David and Jordon and my Social Ark Family.”
Saif Bhoja, founder of Huriah Hemp added: “David and one of his spectacular apprentices Jordan supported me in maximising the potential of my website. They helped me to understand many of the potential current and future pitfalls. They provided an insight into essential web systems through individual one-to-ones and group sessions. This process has helped me grow my entrepreneurial toolkit. Allowing it to extend further into various online elements such as SEO, Web Design and more. I am grateful to have received this support, it has propelled me further in my social enterprise journey and I hope that others can benefit from this experience. Thank you, Apprentice Store.”
The team from the EY Foundation Accelerate Programme is proud of the collaboration between The Apprentice Store and Social Ark. Margaret Gibson OBE, Deputy Chief Executive of the EY Foundation explained: “One of the aims of the Accelerate Programme is to promote networking and build a community of social entrepreneurs across the UK. The collaboration between The Apprentice Store and Social Ark was a joy to follow, as it embodied this goal (across a very large distance) and most importantly supported young people. Providing them with vital skills to use for their own social enterprises during, what was and is, a very uncertain time for them.”
I came to The Apprentice Store who provide IT support, web development, Cyber Security services from their Inverness office. Enable Scotland helped me find work experience at The Apprentice Store. I wanted to learn about what different work takes place in the computing industry and experience some for myself.
First experience of work
The first thing I worked on with The Apprentice Store was thinking about and creating test data for a statistics page they had set up. This page collected reviews and displayed data using these reviews. To see if it was working as intended test needed to carried out. Data from the previous 30 days had a percentage of good/bad reviews. This needed to be compared to the 30 days before and a percentage increase or decrease given out.
To begin with I struggled to understand exactly what I needed to do. I made my initial set of data with random days from the previous 60. David reminded me that I had to consider the extremes of the data so that the test data would be helpful . So, with new guidance, I set out to make the data better fit its purpose.
And there is more
The problem with my second set of data was it was too general. The data I had to make had to go back 60 days. It had to include the day leading up to the 60th day, the 30th day and the current day. This had to be to the minute, 61 days previous 23:59:00 and 60 at 00:00:00 for example. In my second set I had only considered the date and not time of the day. We finally tested my third set of data because it looked more like the sample described above.
My next task
This page is actually part of my work experience in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which aims to get higher in online search results. I started by reading up on ways to climb the Google ladder. I learned, when reading about SEO, that Google looks for various criteria when placing a page in the rankings. They look for things such as having your key word appearing multiple times on your page. They also look for texts of appropriate length that don’t contain repeated sentences. Finally they like to see the key phrase in specific places like the title and introduction. Word Press was also very useful in helping to identify areas where my writing could be more effective from an SEO stand point.
The conclusion of my work experience
During my work experience I have learned some new skills, got an insight in to working on computers in a small office environment and been able to demonstrate previous knowledge.
My time on work experience at The Apprentice Store has been useful as I have had a chance to try some actual work and I have acquired skills. I can take away new skills apply them if I come back to computing as a job in the future which is definitely a possibility after this work experience. Work experience is something I would recommend to anyone looking into any career path as it allows you to see working in the career is actually like.
The Apprentice Store, an IT service provider that delivers a unique IT service from Inverness, has been crowned one of the winners in the Scotland heats of the Chamber Business Awards 2019. Now in their 16th year, the Awards are a highlight of the business calendar, recognising the key role that local businesses play in driving the UK economy.
The Employer of the Year winner, The Apprentice Store, will now go forward to represent the Scotland Region in the national finals, which take place in London in November.
Francis Martin, President of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:
“The Chamber Business Awards are a great opportunity to celebrate the best of British business. Across the country, there are firms of all sizes and sectors thriving and showing their innovation and adaptability, even in the midst of turbulent times.
“Our businesses communities continue to generate prosperity and opportunity so it’s only right that we support and shout about the fantastic things they are doing.
“Each year the calibre of applicants impresses our judges, and this pool of entrants was no different. All our finalists should be proud of their success in reaching this stage and we wish them the very best of luck.”
The Apprentice Store is an IT service provider that delivers a
unique IT service from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to the local
business community and beyond. They are the only Scottish IT service provider
that invests all of their profits into their staff whilst delivering a high
quality and caring service to their clients.
The Apprentice Store works with businesses of all sizes and sectors to support them with their IT systems. The Apprentice Store offers all of their services on project and monthly basis regardless of the size of the business with the service designed around the client needs.
Today is the last day at The Apprentice Store for Josh Black who joined us in 2018 as a network support apprentice.
Josh recently participated in our first every ‘Apprentice swap’ with Gael Force. This was a big transition for Josh moving from a consultancy role with multiple clients, to an in-house team at a large company. As ever, Josh rose to the challenge, so much so that he was offered a permanent role with Gael Force.
Daryl Titcomb, IT Administrator at Gael Force explains: “In recent placements with Gael Force we were incredibly impressed with Josh’s capability and his enthusiasm to learn on the job. We are delighted that he will now join us in a permanent role within our highly active IT department.
“The Apprentice Store has been very supportive to our needs as a business which is fully embracing IT developments at a fast pace. We are very grateful to have been engaged with them in recent months, not only because we are gaining a young, motivated team member, but because we ourselves have learned a lot from the skills that young people bring to the company.”
David Massey, founder of The Apprentice Store congratulates Josh: “It is obviously a day of mixed emotions for me and the team. Whilst we are sad to see Josh go, we are so proud of him and everything he has achieved. We set up The Apprentice Store to create opportunities for young people in IT and Josh’s job offer with a well-established and significant employer in the Highlands is proof that the model works.”
We all wish Josh all the best for the next chapter in his career.
This week, we are delighted to welcome Jordan Whyte to The Apprentice Store.
Aged 17, Jordan has joined us as a web developer apprentice, having studied at Nairn Academy and completed his NPA Computing Level 5 at UHI.
Jordan is no stranger to The Apprentice Store, having done work experience with us through the Prince’s Trust earlier this year. We were so impressed with him that we stayed in touch and were delighted to offer him a permanent role.
Speaking about his first week, Jordan said: “It’s great to be here! I’m enjoying staying productive and learning something new each day with David and the team. The Apprentice Store is one of a very small number of local ICT companies that employs young people. I see this as a golden opportunity for me to grow as a web developer and gain valuable experience and qualifications which will stand me in good stead for the future. The chance to become financially stable whilst learning is such a good outcome for me.”
When he’s not in front of a screen, Jordan can be found exercising and shopping. He is saving his pennies to travel to new places!
The Apprentice Store, an IT service provider in Inverness supporting businesses in the Highlands and beyond, has achieved the prestigious Investors in Young People gold accreditation – an achievement that represents a true commitment to the recruitment, development and retention of Scotland’s young people.
A plaque to commemorate this achievement was presented by Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney at the organisation’s office in Inverness today.
Developed in 2014 as a result of the Wood Commission recommendations, Investors in Young People is a unique framework that helps organisations in Scotland recruit, develop and retain young people, supporting youth employment.
Commenting on the award, David Massey, managing director and founder of The Apprentice Store, said: “It is an honour and a privilege to work with young people and help them forge a career in IT. To have our work with young people recognised by Investors in Young People and, at the highest level by John Swinney, means a great deal to us. We look forward to expanding The Apprentice Store, taking on more apprentices and supporting more clients in the Highlands and Islands as well as the rest of Scotland.”
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney said: “I would like to congratulate The Apprentice Store on achieving the Investors in Young People Gold Accreditation Award. This success demonstrates to other organisations and apprentices what can be achieved with focus, motivation and dedication.
“Apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities for people of all ages – providing them with the chance not only to work and earn, but also to achieve an industry recognised qualification to support future career ambitions. By equipping our young people with the right skills and learning opportunities we can help them on the pathway into employment ensuring Scotland’s economy continues to grow.”
Bonnie Clarke, Interim Chief Executive of Remarkable, the organisation licensed to deliver Investors in Young People, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for The Apprentice Store – congratulations! Investors in Young People not only recognises and supports organisations in the employment of young people, it also marks them out as an employer of choice. Our research shows that 95% of those involved with Investors in Young People say it is relevant to their organisation and as a result 93% of young people within these organisations feel valued. We wish The Apprentice Store continued success for the future.”
The Apprentice Store’s services cover web development, cyber security, IT support, and IT consultancy. The organisation works with businesses of all sizes and sectors from the public, private and third sector and is the only Scottish IT service provider that invests all profits into staff.
Apprentices are employed on a full-time basis rather than fixed term contracts with each following a personal learning plan. They typically follow levels 6 and 8 of Modern Apprenticeships, finishing their two-year programme with recognised qualifications (SVQs). They are all supported by mentors who are experts in their field to ensure that work is delivered to a high standard. Ultimately, The Apprentice Store has a core aim of increasing employment opportunities in IT for young people in the Highlands.
Now in its third year with a strong client base and expanding team and services, The Apprentice Store looks set for further growth as more businesses seek reliable IT services at a competitive rate, delivered by an unique combination of an enthusiastic apprentice and an experienced mentor.
Are you in need of a new website?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
The Apprentice Store has just launched two new Website Packages to help you find the right website for your business or organisation, and at very competitive prices. Both of our new packages come with a special Brand Launch discount of 10% off the prices you see below until the end of November 2018.
Vicky specialises in Cyber Security, and joined The Apprentice Store after completing a degree in Ethical Hacking.
The Apprentice Store has been named Skills Development Scotland’s Youth Employer of the Month for August 2018 for our efforts in creating opportunities for young people, particularly those from diverse background.
We believe that businesses of all sizes should look to develop their workforce through the apprenticeship family from Foundation, through to Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships. Engaging with young people allows the workforce of the future to be developed today and by offering the right working environment you can be more confident that you keep the staff that you have developed.