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The value of apprenticeships at Olamalu

Olamalu apprentice

Olamalu, a digital solutions company helping organisations through better use of technology, was set up by Kate Berman and her husband in 2009. Recognising that opportunities for younger people were scarce in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Oxfordshire-based duo decided to get involved in apprenticeships programmes and dedicate resources to upskilling employees from the local area.

Olamalu currently has three highly skilled degree apprentices studying with The Open University and is about to hire a fourth one. The Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship programme is funded by a levy transfer from Pearson and allows Olamalu to continue business growth at a challenging time.

Kate is a huge supporter of apprenticeships as she recognises the value and benefits to both the apprentices and the business. The qualification boosts practical and theoretical knowledge of the apprentice, which then can be implemented within their work and helps with business growth and stability. Speaking of the programme, Kate said: “Our business is based in a more rural area, and it can be challenging to find qualified software developers. By developing our own, we are able to build the specific skillset that we need in an affordable way.

The apprentices are ready to get stuck in and it’s been rewarding to see them grow. Following their study days, the apprentices come back and share with us what they have learned – it’s a fantastic experience.

Kate Berman, owner of Olamalu

The degree apprenticeship programme is an excellent opportunity for students who wish to learn on the job as well as study for a degree, rather than go through the traditional bricks-and-mortar route. A-level student Niall Middleton was delighted when he discovered that with Olamalu he could gain experience in the technology industry by working as a junior software developer, whilst also studying towards a Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree.

At Olamalu, Niall got stuck in right away and the company’s culture, team spirit and kindness have made him feel like part of the family right from the start. On why he chose Olamalu, Niall said:

“I could have applied for an apprenticeship at a bigger company. But they didn't give me the same kind of energy or feel or passion that Olamalu gave me for web technology. At Olamalu, if we have a problem, it’s a team problem.”

Describing how the apprenticeship works in practice, Niall explains that he works at Olamalu Monday to Thursday, and studies through The Open University on Friday. It works well, he says, because he can immediately apply when he’s learned at work the following week.

Niall is now an advocate for degree apprenticeships, and he believes that he’s learnt more than what he what have done at a bricks-and-mortar university. 

“Lots of graduates are now trying to find jobs but they’ve got no practical experience. I’ve already got plenty of that under my belt. That’s something that really appealed to me about the course: you get the degree and you come out with four years’ experience. So you’re ahead of everyone else”.

Niall, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprentice

Seeing the value that apprentices bring to the company, Kate wants to continue investing in employee development following such a turbulent year. It’s no surprise that Niall sees himself as a part of their future ‘for a very long time’.

Speaking of the future, Kate says: “The commitment and eagerness to learn and do demonstrated by the apprentices has brough us great value over time, especially during this difficult year. Their contribution to Olamalu has been invaluable and we’re excited for the future business growth.”

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