I have now come to the final stages of my apprenticeship and what a journey I have had. If somebody was to tell me just over 2 years ago how far and how much I would learnt by the end of my Level 4 Software Development apprenticeship, I don’t think I would have believed them.
I started my career in software back in 2011, with a small private company in Ipswich achieving a Level 3 Diploma in Software Engineering. After two years, I took a break from the academic route and decided to focus on building my career by working in the public sector. The skills I learnt from a larger organisation have helped me, I was responsible for a very wide range of tasks, using multiple technologies and dealing with various departments.
Two years passed and I was approached by IJYI, they offered me the level 4 apprenticeship in Software Development with Firebrand. There was a warning when I signed up that this would not be an easy achievement. Firebrand are widely known for intense, accelerated courses that help both apprentices and standard employees gain knowledge and qualifications. Over the past two years, I have attended 8, 3 day courses and sat and passed 5 Microsoft Certifications (Including the full MCSD for Web Applications/App Building), the ITIL Foundation Exam and Software Development Methodologies through BCS.
The courses that Firebrand delivered were definitely not for the faint hearted. At points, it felt like my brain was melting, massive information overload caused a daunting feeling that there will be an exam at the end that I wasn’t prepared for. However, the instructors made the lessons interesting and were always available for questions. There was no force to take the exam straight away, one of mine I decided I wasn’t ready, so decided to do some more revision back in the work place and take the exam a couple of weeks later. I failed 2 exams (one by only 1 mark) and was able to re-sit these with the help of firebrand and pass them.
Apprenticeships don’t just consist of sitting in lecture halls and listening to the instructors. The majority of my learning was done in the workplace. IJYI is a small company, there are 14 employees (myself included) all with a wide range of technological backgrounds and experience. This meant that I could ask anybody for help with any problems that I had. I was responsible for developing applications for customers, not just put in a corner and working on useless tasks like some people are led to believe. I had regular contact with customers and was involved with day to day meetings/planning and demos. The amount of knowledge that I have learnt here at IJYI will be taken and used throughout my career, I was learning new things every day and putting those skills to practice all the time.
In August, 2016 I was nominated for Microsoft’s Apprentice of the Year award. I was shortlist as a finalist and attended an awards ceremony in Reading. It was an interesting day with a chance to network with other apprentices and training companies. Out of thousands of applicants I received a certificate for runner up, not quite first place, but an achievement to be proud of none the less.
In the end, it has been hard work to get this apprenticeship wrapped up, but it has been totally worth it. Earning whilst learning, no student loans and no tuition fees. It also boasts hands on training in the workplace with real world scenarios. Your starting salary may not be ideal, however not all apprentices are offered the rock-bottom rate, after completion this salary is increased and 9/10 employers keep the apprentice on as a full-time employee. I would highly recommend that everybody looks into apprenticeships, it has defined my career and given me a head start at a young age.