Apprenticeships could be the answer to the channel's notorious ‘rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul' recruitment culture, a growing number of channel firms believe.
Though chiselling an enthusiastic but raw school leaver into the finished article takes time and effort, it is a task more vendors, disties and resellers are eager to undertake as the government throws more weight behind apprenticeships.
Each apprenticeship completer will boost business productivity by an average of £214 per week, it claimed.
Channel firms hunting for fresh blood have traditionally been forced to choose between poaching experienced - but sometimes jaded - staff from rivals or taking on university leavers.
However, Dan May, operations director at consultancy Ramsac, argued that school leavers often represent a better choice than graduates or those who have already been around the block.
Ramsac, which runs its current apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with Microsoft and training provider QA, has taken on five apprentices in the past four years.
"It is a great opportunity to bring in someone who is really enthusiastic and who wants to get into the industry, at very little cost and risk to us," May said.
"A university degree does not necessarily prepare you for the jobs market in IT. Tertiary education will always struggle to keep up, as by the time you have put a curriculum together, the industry has already changed.
"The nice thing about the Microsoft Apprenticeship is that - as well as coming out with a City & Guilds certification - you also get five or six Microsoft certifications, meaning you come out with qualifications the industry really understands."
According to recent figures from the National Apprenticeship Service, demand for apprenticeships in the ICT sector is rising at almost twice the rate of the number of vacancies up for grabs. It was one of the most competitive sectors for which to apply, with more than 17 applications per vacancy.
But Scott Fletcher, chief executive of ANS (pictured) - which has just launched an apprenticeship scheme with 32 vacancies - argued that demand is not outstripping supply, at least for "quality" candidates.
He pointed out that despite all the government rhetoric, just 17 per cent of UK school leavers pursue a vocational route, compared with 60 per cent in Germany.
"We have to promote apprenticeships as a real choice for education alongside the academic route," he said.
"Universities work for some of the professions but I do not think it really works for IT - certainly not for the channel. It's more about on-the-job, vocational training."
Setting up and running an apprenticeship scheme, as well as understanding what funding is available, can be a byzantine task for the uninitiated, while it also requires firms to take a long-term view of which skills they require.
Ben Cranham, head of corporate accounts at Trustmarque, said the VAR has until now favoured graduate recruitment and internships due to the speed of change in the industry.
"For organisations where strategy might change quickly, apprenticeships are the least easy way to find the next generation of people in the industry," he said. "The pre-work you have to do is significant in terms of how you integrate them into the working environment and you have to take a long-term view about what kind of people you want in your business in four years' time."
But there are now some training agencies that will take all the bureaucracy of employing and training apprentices off the employer's hands, Cranham acknowledged.
This has prompted the York-based outfit to look to take on its first apprentices in areas such as project management and social media.
"This means we can take them on without commitment or extra work and if we find we do not need those skills two years down the line, [the training agency] will take them back," Cranham (pictured) explained.
Conversely, May said that recruiting directly via local media and sixth-form colleges had produced superior candidates to outsourcing the process to a training provider.
"We have found that recruiting our own young people and then working with the training provider is more successful than asking the training provider to provide them," he said. "We found we were applying the same core values to the recruitment process - passion, commitment and drive - as for the more mature people we recruit."
Fletcher said that apprentices tend to be more loyal than graduates and are unlikely to defect to rivals once their training is complete, if they are paid a fair wage and you can demonstrate that it is a good place to work.
It can also increase the esteem in which all staff hold the business, added May.
"It says a lot about you as an employer if you are prepared to invest in new talent," he said.
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