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Sixth Form Student Is Invited Onto IBM Futures Scheme

Sixth Form Student Is Invited Onto IBM Futures Scheme

Sixth Form student, Jamie Pender has been offered a place on IBM’s Futures Placement Scheme to work for a world-learning company for 12 months.

The Futures Placement Scheme is IBM’s Gap Year programme which aims to broaden the horizons of young adults leaving Y13, providing them with a head start in their career. It is a valuable option for students uncertain about what they want to do after Sixth Form or for those who are interested in hands-on work experience before they go to university. For Jamie, a keen Economist, it is the latter.

Whilst challenging, the work placements offer students the chance to support and learn from experienced professionals from across the business. After 12 months they will be primed for the world of work, university life or various apprenticeship schemes.

Jamie’s role will include liaising with current clients and handling the onboarding process for new clients and employees.

The challenging application process is multifaceted and includes interviews, tests, group activities and presentations. To help students interested in applying next year, Jamie has shared an insight into his experience throughout the process and advice on how to prepare for each stage.

Why did you apply for the IBM internship?

Whilst many companies offer degree apprenticeships or one year placements for university students, IBM is one of few that offers internships that don’t require further commitment after the year’s work. Having the option to go to university after one year with no obligation to remain at IBM or work there once I have graduated appealed to me. However, a future career with IBM is certainly an option I would consider.

What made you decide on this route, rather than going straight to university?

I am keen to study Economics at university but saw the benefits in broadening my experience first and so I deferred my entry until 2022 and have received offers from all of my choices.

I don’t yet have an understanding of the working world and what it is like to work within a large organisation such as IBM. Getting hands-on experience during this 12 month internship will provide a better insight into the world of work whilst also enabling me to make connections with other people currently working or aiming to work in a similar environment.

How did you find out about the internship?

The Careers Department made me aware of a virtual work experience opportunity run by Young Professionals during the autumn half term which I took part in. IBM opened an application window specifically for people attending the Young Professionals webinars.

Please explain the application process

In the first instance, I had to fill out a basic application form and submit it alongside my CV. I was then invited to take an online aptitude test which was sent to me via email and I had five days to complete it. The aptitude test was a series of game-style assessments which tested literacy, numeracy and cognitive skills.

Shortly after I was notified via email that I had passed the tests and was invited to complete a more substantial application form. In this I had to demonstrate my skill set by providing detailed examples of times I have used the key skills they were looking for. I also had to send them a personal statement and reasons why I wanted to work for IBM.

After finding out that this application was successful, I was invited to a virtual assessment centre in December – in other years this would have been done in person.

What did you have to do at the assessment centre?

The assessment centre took place online over the course of an afternoon. To begin with we all took part in an ice-breaker activity and then we were split into groups to complete a task – details of which I can’t go into as it is confidential – before presenting our conclusions to a team of assessors. The task involved working with data and required a comfortable understanding of maths.

After the group task, I had an interview with a senior employee at IBM. I had to give a 15 minute presentation before being asked general interview questions.

The afternoon concluded with another interview, this time with a manager who was interested in me for a specific role on the basis of my application. Whilst similar to the first interview, it didn’t require a presentation and was tailored towards a business analyst role. Not everyone had a second interview, but I think it was useful as it offered me another chance to show the IBM recruitment team why they should put me through to the matching process.

Following the assessment centre, I received a phone call from one of the recruitment team to tell me that I had passed that stage and would now be put into the matching process. This meant that as soon as hiring managers were allocated roles from resource management, they could select successful applicants for interview. At this point, passing the assessment centre did not guarantee a job offer and the next interviews in the matching process were key.

Please explain the matching process

In the new year, I received an email explaining that I was being considered for some roles and that a recruitment manager would arrange a phone interview with me. After the 30 minute interview, I spoke to the intern currently in the role who gave me a greater understanding of what I would be doing and I also had the chance to ask questions. While this felt informal, it also felt that this was a chance for them to assess my commitment to the role.

The following day I received a phone call from one of the recruitment team and had to formally accept the offer. I have started the onboarding process, with a start date and induction day planned for early July.

It has been a lengthy and thorough process but communication from IBM has been excellent throughout.

What advice would you give to students taking the cognitive test?

Although this can’t be ‘revised’ for, you can certainly practise and warm-up your cognitive skills. I looked on the internet and after a deep dive found some tests, however, I found that apps based around ‘brain-training’ work best. The cognitive tests are designed to replicate games so that you feel more relaxed when taking them, so any brain training games will be good practice for thinking in the way they want you to think.

What advice would you give to students completing the longer application form?

Be honest! The interview process is based around this form so if you’ve applied as the person you think they want, but isn’t the real you, you’re going to struggle later on. In addition, things that you may think aren’t particularly important might actually demonstrate what they’re looking for. Trust that they will identify your strengths and weaknesses.

What advice would you give to students for the presentation?

Make it interesting, both visually and in content. No one directly said this but my interviewer will have sat through a number of presentations that day, and if you’re the candidate who makes them go “that was interesting, I enjoyed that presentation”, you’ll stick in their mind for the right reasons.

What advice would you give to students for the interviews?

Take a breath and think clearly before you speak – don’t think that you have to say the first thing that comes to mind.

By the time I had my interview with IBM I had already had my mock interview in school which helped prepare me for this. It isn’t an interview about your technical abilities – it is more focused on you as a person – so just be honest.

I had a business interview at the assessment centre for a business analyst role and this wasn’t quite the right fit for me however, the interviewer mentioned that he could recommend me for other roles and so being honest and open during the interview will have provided him with a clearer idea of what would be a good fit for me.

What advice would you give to students for the group activity?

Make sure you speak!

You won’t get noticed if you don’t say anything or don’t contribute. Just make sure you think through the task and talk through your thought process with your peers – that way you’ll come across as someone who can communicate effectively and work well in a group.

What will your role be?

I don’t have a specific title yet, but IBM delivers IT services to a range of business and Government clients, and I will be a business intern, working on projects that support the delivery of that.

What are you looking forward to most?

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into a variety of projects. Outside of the responsibilities of my role, there should be opportunities to get involved with other projects at IBM. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other interns, and making connections for the future.

Did anything in particular help prepare you for the application process?

During Yarm Apprentice – the brain-child of Miss Rhodes – we had a session focussed on delivering effective presentations and throughout, we had to present ideas and work positively in a team. Both of these things were entirely relevant at the assessment centre.

Being Chair of the Economics Society has provided me with various leadership responsibilities, such as organising schedules. This provided me with genuine experiences to talk about during the application process.

IBM was interested in hearing about specific examples of things I had done, so being fully involved in school life at all levels gave me real things to talk about.

What are your career ambitions? What jobs / industries / sectors appeal to you most?

Going forward, I’m not sure exactly what sector I want to work in, but I want to work in a fast-paced, business-driven environment. I enjoy working with others and organising to achieve specific goals, so something project and team related would be a good fit.

Who do you think should apply next year?

I am studying Economics, Maths and English at A Level and noticed that a lot of people at the assessment centre were Economics and Business students, but anyone who wants to work in a business environment should apply. IBM also offers degree apprenticeships and I know that some people go onto the Futures Scheme when trying to decide if university is the right route for them.

They also offer the same scheme but for technical roles as opposed to business roles, so people interested in IT based careers could also find the scheme interesting. It is a time-consuming process so don’t undertake it lightly, but it has been a rewarding challenge and an invaluable experience.

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