Microsoft traineeship turned my life around, says teenager with Asperger’s

A teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome has revealed that completing a traineeship with Microsoft has “turned my life around”.

Jacob Saunders was one of dozens of youngsters who recently graduated from the course, which is run in partnership with training provider QA and aimed at giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to have a fulfilling career.

The 18-year-old said the three-month placement had now given him the confidence to pursue a job in IT.

“Prior to the QA traineeship I was very shy and not able to communicate with new people. The traineeship has given me the confidence to talk to new people and has turned my life around. I now have enough confidence to progress a career and work in IT. I could not have done that without having done this traineeship,” Saunders said.

While at Microsoft, the teenager was taught to use the Azure cloud service, helped set up a server and learnt about cyber-security and how to protect websites from attacks. Sanders also passed two Microsoft Office Specialist exams – in Word and PowerPoint – which proved he displayed a high skill level in those programs.

“[The placement] gave me a lot of experience and confidence. I have Asperger’s so I have issues with social skills, but meeting loads of new people has given me the confidence to work in an office. I’ve now applied to join the QA apprenticeship team, and from there I can hopefully get a tech-related IT role and then a programming role.”

Traineeship graduation at Microsoft Reading

Jacob Saunders recieves his certificate from Microsoft’s Sarah Foxall and Dominic Gill

QA’s Government-funded traineeship programme, which works with a number of companies including Microsoft, aims to get young people into jobs and tackle the UK’s digital skills crisis. A Government report last year called for “urgent” investment in developing young people in the technology and IT sectors in order to spark a significant improvement of the digital skills gap for the next decade.

Hussain Gulfraz, from Earley, completed a traineeship with QA and Microsoft when he was 17.

“The traineeship with QA and Microsoft has allowed me to progress onto an apprenticeship, meaning that I now have a job at a web design agency, doing front-end development work,” he said.

“I get paid a salary and study at the same time. I would not be doing what I am doing now without the traineeship opportunity provided by QA and Microsoft, because I didn’t get the GCSE grades that I wanted – so didn’t think I would be able to start a career in anything that I wanted to do. Before I was enrolled on the traineeship, I was still in employment but working in retail. I never expected to be where I am now one year after taking the traineeship.”

Saunders’ graduation ceremony was held at Microsoft’s UK headquarters in Reading and featured talks by Dominic Gill, Apprenticeship Lead at Microsoft; Joanne Giles, Head of Traineeships at QA, and former participants of the programme.

Sarah Foxall, Corporate Affairs Manager at Microsoft, said: “For young people without basic qualifications, accessing the opportunity of an apprenticeship can be challenging. This programme provides trainees with a chance to learn and grow, time and support to explore their employment interests, and opportunities to demonstrate their potential.

“The Microsoft staff who support the program are all volunteers – this would not be possible without their commitment to help others. We have seen the trainees make tremendous progress, and we’re delighted to be celebrating the results of their efforts and the contributions of everyone involved.”

QA’s next traineeship opportunity with Microsoft starts later this month.