Two million UK apprenticeships were created in the last parliament. As one of those two million, I'd like to talk about my experience working in the Skills Funding Agency.
I started here just over two years ago, a university drop-out stuck in a rut. I studied physics and, while the actual physics bit wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I found I thoroughly enjoyed the computer science/software engineering side, so decided I wanted to get myself into that space. After a bit of googling, I came across the National Apprenticeship Service and an apprenticeship in Software Development at the SFA.
I applied for the apprenticeship and a couple of interviews later, was plunged right into the deep end. My communication skills and people skills have always been a little rough, so being injected into a business analysis team was like going to learn how to swim and being airdropped into the middle of the ocean. With a weight belt. However, with my past failures behind me, the career I wanted in front, and a great deal of support from my colleagues in the Agency, the plunge was manageable.
I have been offered excellent opportunities here, working in a whole variety of areas around software testing, business analysis, and eventually software development. A lot of this I'd never even considered. I had no idea there was so much work to do to develop a functional product, and this experience thoroughly rounded out my skillset.
I had the chance to understand how a large organisation went about developing working software from end-to-end. Now, I'm not 100% sure what Computer Science degree entails, and I'm sure there're some sort of business modules to prepare students for the workplace, but no learning experience can rival fully immersing yourself in the subject. This is a key advantage of apprenticeships. I don't mean to suggest that an apprenticeship is inherently better than higher education, but I see apprenticeships dismissed far too often as a lesser option. They certainly don't always get the visibility they deserve.
My apprenticeship kick-started my career in a field I hadn’t originally considered. For two years I’ve been able to significantly develop my skills in a supportive environment. I’m pleased to say that earlier this month I accepted a permanent job as a Junior Developer in the SFA Digital Team.
Joe has written a new blog post, where he talks about what happened after his apprenticeship, and his experiences as a Junior Developer.
You may also be interested in other blog posts by our apprentices: