Love of tech fuels Chris’ apprenticeship dream

Posted on 06/01/2016

An IT enthusiast with a passion for all things tech has landed his dream job after receiving help from Skills Made Easy, a unique Government-led scheme organised by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership. 

Over the past few months Skills Made Easy has been working with Sheffield-based Technology company Customer Focus. Launched in the city 15 years ago, the company produces bespoke Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for the print and promotional goods industries.

With offices in California and Manchester, the company’s Sheffield office is responsible for helping to implement new software for its customers – as well as providing ongoing support and training to the company’s global client base. Faced with an increasing workload, Implementation Manager Mark Brook recognised that the company needed additional support and approached Skills Made Easy to see if they could help overcome the skills shortages the business was facing.

Skills Made Easy worked with Customer Focus to identify the ideal type of candidate the company was looking for and with a passion for all things tech. Chris O’Dea proved to be exactly the type of candidate the company was looking for.

Having previously undertaken an apprenticeship with a different training provider and at the age of 24, Chris felt his chances of building a career in the tech sector were passing him by, but Skills Made Easy were able to were able to help Chris secure a place on a level 3 IT apprenticeship, allowing him to pursue his dream career.

Chris O’Dea developed his passion for computers whilst attending school, teaching himself during his spare time how to build and repair computers from scratch. He devoted much of his spare time to helping friends and family members overcome various software and hardware problems.

Despite his love of technology, opportunities to secure a full-time role proved hard to come by and Chris found himself working in customer services. Having spent more than seven months unemployed, his fortunes changed after Skills Made Easy helped him to make the all-important career breakthrough and after interviewing Chris, Mark didn’t hesitate in offering him the job.

Mark Brook, Implementation Manager, Customer Focus said:

“I had always thought apprenticeships were aimed at school leavers, so seeing a 24 year old on the other side of the interview table was something of a shock, but Chris’ genuine interest and passion for technology shone through and we didn’t hesitate in offering him a job.

“As a business, we had reached the stage where we needed additional help in our Sheffield office and after spending time looking into the different types of apprenticeships available we approached Skills Made Easy to help us. We liked the idea of apprenticeships as it meant we could train a candidate from scratch, helping them to develop the skills which they need during their job. We decided to look at apprenticeships because of the on-the-job training which is provided. It meant that we could help Chris to develop skills which were directly relevant to the job.

“Chris is the first apprentice we’ve employed and through the support we’ve received from Skills Made Easy, we’ve been able to find a candidate who is keen to learn, motivated and exceeded all of our expectations – so much so that he earned his first salary increase within just three months of joining the company and I’m sure he will have a great future with the business.”

Chris O’Dea said:

“Before joining Customer Focus I had been out of work for nearly seven months and I was beginning to wonder whether I’d ever manage to secure another job.

“My day-to-day role is divided between supporting the company’s technical team and helping to deliver training. It’s been a very steep learning curve, but I’m really enjoying the role and the challenges of the job. I’m currently working towards completing a level 3 advanced apprenticeship qualification.”

Laura Hayfield, Programme Manager, Skills Made Easy said:

“Apprentices have proved to be a popular choice amongst businesses which are looking to grow their workforce because of the opportunities to train a new member of staff and help them to secure qualifications whilst learning. Many employers, like Customer Focus, recognise that creating opportunities for young people can not only help to provide them with the additional capacity needed to grow their business, but perhaps equally importantly it enables them to work with the apprentice to tailor training to suit their very specific needs.

“Since the Skills Made Easy programme was launched in 2013 we have helped nearly 2,500 individuals which have benefitted from our apprenticeship and workforce development support programmes, helping to create new skilled jobs throughout the Sheffield City Region.”

Skills Made Easy provides a comprehensive range of training and apprenticeship advice to small and medium-sized businesses based within the Sheffield City Region. The programme is completely free of charge and can also help businesses to access government grants to cover the costs of training. To find out more about the scheme, telephone: 0114 229 6183.