Lucy Metcalfe and Caroline Hagan, Blueocto

Blueocto urges firms to back apprenticeships

As a growing web design and development agency, we’ve urged fellow small businesses to continue providing opportunities for young people, after we onboarded an apprentice of our own during lockdown.

Caroline Hagan, our founder and managing director of Blueocto, was an early adopter of remote working, having made the decision in February 2019 to close the company’s office in favour of providing the team with a more flexible work-life balance. 

Founded in 2013, the company has been built upon an ethos of delivering ‘Tech for Good’ by using resources and skills to support not only core clients, but also charities and community interest companies (CICs), and we have continued to deliver on this pledge during the pandemic.

Pimms and Needles, responsive WordPress website
Pimms and Needles CIC

As businesses across the UK switched to remote working, many charitable organisations struggled to make the change, as traditional fundraising streams such as events and retail trade dried up overnight.

Working with organisations such as Addictions UK and North East Homeless, we were able to minimise the impact of store closures and event cancellations, by helping sustain their fundraising efforts by facilitating online solutions.

While the shift to digitisation has been moving ever-closer over the past couple of decades, the pandemic brought with it a step-change to digital adoption that will likely change the way we do business forever.

As a business that specialises in all things digital, we saw demand for our services soar, from salons digitising appointments to independent shopkeepers offering online deliveries, the phone never stopped ringing.

Homepage of the North East Homeless WordPress website
NEh North East Homeless

However, as well as our corporate work, we also saw a huge opportunity to lend our expertise to our charitable partners, which is something we’ve been committed to since launching the business eight years ago. 

For example, we created an online platform for one specific charity which allowed people to donate coffees for the homeless and helped build an eCommerce platform for another that relied heavily on its store to raise the funds required to sustain its future. 

There’s no hiding from the fact that it’s been challenging at times, but it has also been extremely rewarding.

At the heart of Blueocto’s pledge to deliver ‘Tech for Good’, is a promise to create opportunities for young people and to help the next generation of talent break into the industry.

Addictions North East WordPress website displayed on different devices
Addictions North East

Having already recruited and upskilled junior web designer Dean Hope since making the switch to remote working, demand for Blueocto’s services has continued to grow during the pandemic due to the shift to digitisation.

Having been impressed by Dean’s ability to hit the ground running working remotely – the company has continued its recruitment drive with the onboarding of its first apprentice.

Working with digital apprenticeship and training specialist, Baltic Training, University of Sunderland graduate Lucy Metcalfe joined Blueocto in January as a Digital Marketing Assistant and – impressed by how well the process was handled – Caroline is urging fellow businesses to follow suit, in order to ensure the industry doesn’t miss out on an entire generation of talent.

Having spent 14 years in the industry since graduating from University, I’ve witnessed first-hand how difficult it can be for young people to break into the sector, and providing opportunities for others is something I’m incredibly passionate about. 

Caroline Hagan, Director

After seeing demand for our services almost double last year, we knew we would have to continue growing our headcount in order to continue delivering the excellent service we provide to our clients, and we set about recruiting an apprentice to join the team.

Lucy Metcalfe, Blueocto
Lucy Metcalfe, Blueocto

We were introduced to Baltic Training through the North East of England Chamber of Commerce and have been blown away by – not only how seamless the process was – but also the impact Lucy has had on our business in such a short space of time.

Through weekly team catch-ups on Zoom to participating in virtual meetings with clients, she has not only helped significantly reduce our workload, but also diversify our service offering through the delivery of content marketing and it’s been a real pleasure bringing her onboard.

While some businesses may hold reservations about onboarding staff remotely, especially apprentices, it’s vital that we continue to support them and create opportunities to ensure we don’t miss out on an entire generation of talent.”

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