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Apprentices network their way onto career ladder

A trio of UTC Reading’s first alumni are launching their careers as IT apprentices with one of the school’s industry partners.

James Walsh, Israr Hassan and Anwar Whight have joined a three-year apprenticeship programme with Reading-based Cisco Systems Ltd, having completed their sixth form studies in the summer.
The three students were among the first cohort to join UTC Reading, which provides a curriculum specialising in computer science and engineering, when it opened in September 2013.
James, aged 19 from Tilehurst, said: “It is a dream come true to be working at Cisco. I completed their work experience programme during my time at UTC Reading, which was one of the most exciting things I had ever done through school. I knew immediately it was where I wanted to start my career.  
“Having made that clear to my teachers, they gave me every opportunity to build links and contacts with the company. The application process was extremely tough, but because of the preparation I had been given by UTC Reading I was able to demonstrate that I had the skills and qualifications Cisco needed.”
Israr, aged 20, said: “You get a lot of contact with the industry partners at UTC Reading, which means you get to know them and they get to know you. This really helps when you are ready to make the next step. I thought about university and had offers from five universities, but the Cisco apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity. I can earn money while I qualify, instead of getting into debt; experience the many different roles and careers Cisco offers and I have more certainty over my long-term career prospects.”
During their apprenticeship, the former students will spend time in different parts of the business before taking an elongated placement in their final year. On completion, the apprenticeship will give them a university-equivalent qualification.
UTC Reading is run with the support of industry partners including Cisco Systems Ltd, Microsoft, Network Rail and Peter Brett Associates. These partners help to shape the curriculum, set live projects and assignments and provide coaching, mentoring, careers talks and work placements.
Martin Raines, Project Manager at Cisco Systems Ltd, said: “Our involvement at UTC Reading helps to develop the talent we need for the future of our business. By working with the students on projects, internships and work experience, we get to know them. It breaks down barriers and helps to remove some of the risk when it comes to recruitment. These three students were particularly good at building professional relationships during their time at the school and were able to demonstrate the technical as well as the soft skills we look for.”
Joanne Harper, Principal at UTC Reading, said: “Our recent Ofsted inspection commented that the school prepares students exceptionally well for their future lives. This is largely because of the links we have with industry partners which can offer students seamless routes into employment.
“The investment in time and resources from companies such as Cisco benefits our students enormously, but it also benefits the companies as they are seeking to recruit new talent.
“Having completed our first two years, we now have the first examples of students leaving the school and successfully entering employment or higher education, which is extremely satisfying.”
  • Active Learning
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • University of Reading
  • Network Rail
  • Peter Brett