In National Apprenticeship Week we wanted to give you our updated take on the Business Analysis Apprenticeship. Surprising now to think that the scheme went live in March 2017. Nearly 4 years on and the scheme is widely judged to be an overwhelming success with over 1000 apprentices choosing to progress their BA career in this way.
In the world of Digital and Tech the scheme stands out as having universal appeal with people of all ages and backgrounds engaging with the scheme. BCS, the main Awarding body for this apprenticeship, recently reported the refreshing news that that 45% of the apprentices who register for programmes are female.
Our own experience confirms our initial hopes that the scheme represents a fantastic opportunity for anyone intent on entering the business analysis profession. Important to note that apprentices have continued to enrol onto programmes over the last 11 months. Virtual training and mentoring support brings certain challenges but learning programmes are adaptable and by and large apprentices have proven to be hardy souls who have stepped up to make things work for them. All in all, heartening stuff.
It’s reasonable to say that this apprenticeship programme is a challenging one. After all, the role requires a breadth of professional and personal skills to be developed. No surprises in the skills listed below although perhaps a few nervous twitches at the prospect of data analysis and user acceptance testing.
The Professional Skills
The personal or underpinning skills
From our experience, we wanted to share some “top tips” on what we see as the key factors to be considered ahead of launching a successful business analyst apprenticeship programme.
- Know the ‘Standard’. The BA Standard is the two-page document that details what a business analyst apprentice must learn. All training and skill development must relate to the Standard and the required skills. The skills are the ones you would expect to see but it’s important to be familiar from the outset on the skills to be attained. You can view the Standard by clicking on the following link.
- The importance of engagement and motivation. As a challenging programme of learning and assessment, the start point for any apprentice and employer has to be high levels of motivation and then engagement. Achieving the apprenticeship has to be seen as a genuinely exciting career opportunity. If not, there is a risk that the required investment of time and effort proves too much. We use the adage “if in doubt do nowt” – sometimes discretion is the better part of valour and there could perhaps be a better time to embark on an apprenticeship.
- Apprentices are learners. Each apprentice must be seen first and foremost as a learner. While apprentices carry out business analysis work and contribute to project outcomes, the focus must be on developing the skills defined within the BA Standard. 20% of an apprentice’s time must be spent in formal learning (sometimes called “off-the-job” learning). Formal learning can include any of the following: course attendance, e-learning, mentoring and shadowing.
- Exposure is key. Apprentices are required to gain the breadth of business analysis experience that is embodied in the BA Standard. The experience gained enables them to demonstrate competence in real work situations and then compile their evidence into a comprehensive portfolio. Employers need to check that this level of exposure is achievable over an 18 month period.
- Educating colleagues. The requirements placed upon apprentices are not always appreciated by everyone in the organisation. Communicating a clear message about the apprentice role and the learning priorities is critical for colleagues to fully appreciate the investment that is being made.
- Vital evidence. The assessment of each apprentice’s development will focus on the evidence they produce that illustrates their skills. While apprentices may carry out excellent business analysis work, it is important that this is fully documented ahead of any assessment. Writing detailed portfolios isn’t for everyone and whilst plenty of nifty templates are available the expectations on the need for detailed written evidence should be made clear from the outset.
Apprenticeships offer a much needed formal entry point to the BA profession, removing the need for the traditional ‘drift’ into the career. Importantly, apprentice schemes require what is learnt to be fully practised in real work situations before being captured in a written account. There is then a built in need for apprentices to use their new skills in anger and reflect upon their experience for improvement. The scheme may not work for every employer or individual but our experience has shown that the BA apprenticeship offers an excellent basis for developing the stars of the future. Given this, it is well worth considering as part of any future resource planning.
You can read more about our BA apprenticeship programme here.