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The (V)IPs are coming

We can’t wait for January. In January, we get shaken up, educated, inspired, supported and impressed all at once. Why? Because all the applications are now in and, in January, we get to interview and select the students who will become our next Industrial Placement (IP) employees in the summer of 2019.

red carpetWhilst it might seem that the role of an IP scheme is to train the next generation of engineers and developers, and to provide young people with work experience, we find that our IP scheme does much more than that. We believe that it is one of the most important ways that we can invest in the future, not only of the young people involved, but also of the company, our employees and our customers and partners too.

On the surface, our IP scheme looks similar to others in the market: It runs for 13 months, takes students from ICT related degrees, and slots in between their second and third years of study. However, what is different – and what makes our scheme so valuable – is that, after some intensive training, our IPS are working on real customer-facing projects within a couple of months of joining. From then on, they work in the same way as our permanent staff for the remainder of the placement; we offer them plenty of support, but trust them to do the job on their own.

Our placement scheme benefits our IPs in a number of ways:

  • Hands-on learning – whilst it is possible to learn a certain amount from text books, training and simulations, there is no substitute for learning by doing. In a recent McKinsey study on education into employment, 62% of young people said the on-the-job training and 58% said hand-on experience were the most effective way of learning.
  • Making a contribution – our IPs feel valued and know that they are making a genuine contribution to the company, and to their colleagues. One of our current IPs, Danny Lyubenov says “I get to work with some amazing people and I know that the work I do makes a difference. I feel that I matter to Cognito iQ”.
  • Learning soft skills – our students live the experience of working in a team, communicating with others, taking responsibility, solving problems and interacting with colleagues. The same McKinsey study says “One of the things we learned in our research is how highly employers value soft skills.”
  • Additional qualifications – we allocate a budget for our IPs to gain extra qualifications or accreditations that will help them to do their jobs. For example, in recent years we have enabled some of our IPs to complete AWS certifications, which they will take forward into their future careers.
  • An advantage in the job market – we offer around 80% of our students a permanent role, and we have a high return rate, but the experience they gain with us also makes them very attractive to other employers. At present, one of our recent IPs is working for Goldman Sachs and another for SSE, putting their skills and knowledge into practice.

We are so proud of our scheme and our students seem to value it too as we’ve made it into Rate My Placement’s top medium size schemes every year since 2015. However, it isn’t all about the benefits to the students. There are huge benefits for Cognito iQ too. Not only does it help us to recruit some amazing people – one of our first IPs from 1998, is still with us today and is now one of our Product Managers – but also, our IPs …

  • Shake us up – they bring new ideas and they aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. They ask why we do things the way we do, and make us question our long-standing assumptions.
  • Educate us – because they are fresh from university, they have been learning about the latest technologies, methods and processes and we often find that whilst we are training them, they have much to teach us too.
  • Inspire us – there is nothing more inspirational for a team than to have a new member who is – as our IPs always are – enthusiastic, excited about the role, and glad to be coming to work every day. Morale is sky high when there is an IP in the team.
  • Support us – because our IPs do real work, from early on, they quickly become valued team members, who contribute to our successes and those of our customers.
  • Impress us – our IPs come from diverse backgrounds and bring diverse skill sets, personalities and experiences, but what they have in common is that they always impress us with their dedication, hard work and willingness to learn. For example, one of our IPS chose to take the role of Scrum Master (a leadership role in Agile Development) for part of her placement. This is such a challenging task that many more experienced employees feel they are not ready to take it on, but she jumped in with both feet and made a great success of it.

Our IPs are so important to us, we think they are VIPs, and we can’t wait for January to meet next year’s intake for the first time.

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