Wednesday, 29 January 2020

What Is the Digital Support Technician Apprenticeship Standard?

by Ben Hansford

Launched in 2019, the Digital Support Technician Apprenticeship Standard was created to accelerate technology adoption into the workforce. But how does it work?

The Level 3 Digital Support Technician Apprenticeship, created in 2019, trains people to explain new technologies to those who don’t understand how they work. It combines training in different digital products with ‘soft’ skills such as customer service, problem-solving and communication.

While Digital Support Technician is great for upskilling, for example, first-line helpdesk staff, it can also be used to support internal staff to make better use of technology in their day-to-day activity. This makes it a great option for any business implementing a large-scale digital transformation programme.

The standard has two distinct pathways:
  • Digital Applications Technician, aimed at individuals helping to upskill colleagues in essential business applications
  • Digital Service Technician, for staff supporting external customers with product queries
This article explains how your business might benefit from Digital Support Technician, what skills it delivers, and the problems it could help you solve.

How is Digital Support Technician different from other apprenticeships standards?

Digital Support Technician’s combination of in-depth digital understanding and customer service skills is a brand new angle for the market.

Apprenticeship frameworks such as Contact Centre Operations have been widely used for helpdesk training, but don’t have the digital content to create skilled tech support people.

At the other end of the scale, a framework like IT Applications Specialist gives a good general overview of systems, but doesn’t help apprentices communicate with customers or colleagues effectively.

The low value of these frameworks also rules out specialist practical training on digital applications. Both frameworks will be retired in August 2020.

Among apprenticeship standards, Level 3 Infrastructure Technician has been used by a number of employers to train helpdesk staff. However, we’ve found this standard to be more suitable for apprentices whose job mainly involves setting up, maintaining and troubleshooting systems, rather than primarily working with customers to help them use systems effectively.

What skills will Digital Support Technician apprentices learn?

Like all apprenticeship standards, the Digital Support Technician standard outlines a set of core competencies which apprentices must demonstrate to pass their apprenticeship: 

  • Proficiency in a variety of systems. Apprentices must show familiarity with information management systems - such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, data management systems, collaborative tools, and communications systems, like conferencing software, live chat and social media.
  • Problem-solving and creative thinking. Digital Applications Technicians will need to show how they identify and resolve issues for colleagues so office productivity is maintained, while Digital Service Technicians must demonstrate an effective diagnostic process for customer issues.
  • Coaching or customer service. Applications Technicians will focus on teaching colleagues how to make effective use of available technologies. Service Technicians’ focus will be on good customer service and supporting the customer throughout their setup process and/or complaint resolution.
  • Supporting a range of needs. On both pathways, apprentices will support individuals from a variety of backgrounds, with differing levels of technical skill. They must be able to identify the individual’s level of knowledge and tailor their working approach accordingly.
  • Continuous improvement. All apprentices on this standard should constantly be looking for ways in which they can improve their organisation’s approach to using technology to deliver better business outcomes.

You can view the full list of competencies for each pathway on the Institute for Apprenticeship website.

Who should undertake the Digital Support Technician apprenticeship?

As long as the underlying purpose is to help others make more effective use of technology, different businesses will be able to make use of it in a number of ways. Here are some typical challenges which Digital Support Technician apprenticeships could resolve:
  • Worried your helpdesk staff don’t have the technical skills to advise customers effectively? The most obvious use case for this apprenticeship is to train tech helpdesk staff. Giving them the digital knowledge to diagnose issues and support customers can improve and simplify your support setup.
  • Concerned people aren’t embracing a new system? People can often be slow to adopt new technology simply because they don’t understand how it works. Digital Support Technician apprentices can outline features and functions to different teams quickly when a new system is introduced.
  • Unsure if people understand how technology can make their lives easier? If they can’t see ‘what’s in it for me’, then people are likely to ignore a new system rather than spend time learning it. Digital Support Technicians can work with individual teams to explain how their everyday tasks and responsibilities can be made simpler, quicker and more effective through technology.
  • Frustrated in your efforts to become data-driven? While not everyone has to be a data analyst to make better use of data, it does help if people know how to find and interpret the reports you generate. Assigning Digital Support Technicians to develop this skill across teams and departments will boost effective use of data.
  • Struggling to hire skilled IT staff to support your digital requirements? Because it provides a broad introduction to different technologies in a business setting, Digital Support Technician can be used as an entry point for individuals considering a more specialist career in IT. The best digital talent among these apprentices can undertake further training to support other areas where you’re experiencing a digital skills gap.

What does the training and assessment look like?

The Digital Support Technician standard doesn’t include any mandatory courses or qualifications. As long as apprentices gain the skills they need to demonstrate all the competencies required by the apprenticeship, training providers can deliver this in any format they see fit.

Firebrand’s programme includes two classroom-based training courses covering core technologies. These are created by CompTIA+, a non-vendor-specific learning provider, so the information in the courses will be applicable to any system used within your business.

The curriculum also includes a bespoke Customer Support classroom course, which will deliver the skills apprentices need to coach and support people in the use of new technologies.

The End Point Assessment for the standard includes:
  • A review of the evidence collected by the apprentice during training (their portfolio), showing how they’ve demonstrated the competencies required
  • An extended case study presentation – 20 hours of research and preparation based around a brief set by the independent End Point Assessment organisation, followed by a 20-minute presentation in which the apprentice explains how they would approach the brief
  • Four knowledge tests – multiple-choice assessments testing apprentices on core concepts
  • A final interview with an independent End Point Assessor
To help apprentices prepare for the Knowledge Tests and approach the case study presentation, we’re including an EPA Preparation classroom course as part of our training programme.

How do I find out more?

Check out the full standard on the Institute for Apprenticeships website to see all of the competencies apprentices will have to demonstrate, and how these will be assessed.

If you think your business could use some Digital Support Technicians, get in touch with us to find out more about our programme.

Ben Hansford is Managing Director of Firebrand's Apprenticeships division. Ben spent seven years managing large employer apprenticeship requirements at the Education and Skills Funding Agency, before leading the development of PeoplePlus UK’s skills offer. As a consultant, he has worked with a range of national employers and training providers to deliver successful business change.