Microsoft crowns first female Apprentice of the Year

Youth unemployment in the UK has been hovering around the half-million mark for the last few years, and businesses – particularly in the IT sector – continue to grapple with the challenge of finding cost-effective ways to hire talented individuals. Finding ways to combat this challenge is vital to fill the growing number of jobs available and to provide young people with worthwhile opportunities to get onto the career ladder.

Five years ago, Microsoft launched its Partner Apprenticeship programme to provide a more viable way for businesses to hire talented individuals with relevant skills. The scheme offers young people across the country the opportunity to combine hands-on work experience, within one of Microsoft’s partner businesses, with Microsoft-certified qualifications. It has gone from strength to strength since its launch – with an increasing number of partner businesses deciding to participate each year. So far, over 7000 young people have been placed in around 5000 different companies across the country, and 93% of apprentices have stayed within those businesses after completing the programme. As a result of its success, Microsoft has pledged to create a further 3,500 apprenticeships by the end of 2015 to bring these opportunities to more people.

Yesterday, Microsoft celebrated the achievements of its apprentices at the annual Apprentice of the Year competition. For the first time ever, the overall Apprentice of the Year award was presented to a female apprentice, marking a significant milestone for an industry which has traditionally struggled to attract young women.

Over the course of the last five years, Microsoft has been working hard to change traditional perceptions of IT as a male-dominated career path, calling upon female role models from within the business to demonstrate the variety of opportunities available to young women in particular. Whilst there is still work to be done, it is now estimated that 22% of Microsoft apprentices are female, which is above industry average.

This year’s winner, 19-year-old Tanya Stittle, is an apprentice at Cambridge-based mobile payments specialist Bango. Keen to encourage more young women to follow in her footsteps, she will join other female apprentices in a push to engage with her peers to demonstrate the benefits of a career in IT – particularly an apprenticeship.

“Whilst it is perhaps traditionally perceived to be a male-dominated sector, it’s great to see female role models like Tanya embarking upon a career in technology and encouraging others to do the same,” says Hugh Milward, Director of Corporate Affairs, Microsoft UK. “We need young people with all different skillsets – both male and female – to play a part in driving the UK’s valuable IT industry forwards.”

Tanya was awarded the prize in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the team since joining 20 months ago. The judges commended her ability to quickly build the skills required to solve complex technical problems, develop a logical approach to her work and her readiness to take on new challenges. She has supported several case studies, films and media panels promoting career opportunities for young females in IT. As a mentor to fellow team members, Tanya has developed a reputation for being a strong role model for other apprentices.

“This is such a surprise – I can’t believe it. I’m so proud to be the first female Apprentice of the Year,” says Tanya. “We need to get the word out to more girls, because generally a lot of women feel that IT is more of a male thing, but if they knew it could be the start of a successful career then they’d definitely want to.  What I really love is the way we get to learn every day; from our training providers, from our work colleagues, it just builds your skill set more and more. And, of course, it’s always really interesting!”

The ceremony also included a separate Apprentice Employer Award, which was awarded to IT solutions company Perspicuity. In a very strong field of employers nominated by their own apprentices, Perspicuity was commended for the way it supports new apprentices, paying a viable living wage and implementing a coach and mentor process to help new recruits to learn and develop more effectively.

The complete list of 2015’s shortlisted Apprentices and Employers is as follows:



Nominee name Result Company Provider
Finalists: Apprentice in Small employer category
Adam Priscott Runner up Perspicuity QA
Rory Kiernan Runner up Axess Systems Remit
Chloe Castle Winner Pickering Software Services QA
Finalists: Apprentice in medium employer category
Christopher Stephens Runner up Computers In Personnel QA
Richard Smith Runner up 5G Communications Firebrand
Tanya Stittle Winner QA
Finalists: Apprentice in Enterprise employer
Connor Weeks Runner up Computacenter Baltic
Ismail Mulla Runner up Origin Housing QA
Michael Smith Winner Computacenter Baltic
Overall Winner – Apprentice of the Year 2015 – Tanya Stittle (Bango)




Name of employer Result Company Provider
Finalists: Small employer category
Invotra Runner up Invotra QA
TechQuarters Runner up TechQuarters Firebrand
Perspicuity Winner Perspicuity QA
Finalists: Medium Employer
Bango Runner up Bango QA
Cisilion Runner up Cisilion IT Skillsman
Risual Winner Risual IT Skillsman
Finalists: Enterprise Employer
Computacenter Runner up Computacenter Baltic Training
Gamma Runner up Gamma Firebrand
Smiths Group Winner Smiths Group QA
Overall winner – Employer of the Year 2015 – Perspicuity