From Apprentice to Full Time Dev
A Q&A session with Clearvision's own Jonathan Allcock. We discuss the software development apprenticeship experience and offer some words of advice.
There are many different paths you can take to a career in tech. One of the less widely-publicised routes is an apprenticeship – something Clearvision’s own Jonathan Allcock can tell us all about.
In this Q&A session, we discuss the software development apprenticeship experience and offer some words of advice for any young people struggling to find the best way into their ideal industry.
Q. How did you come across the apprenticeship opportunity with Clearvision? Talk to us about your decision process.
A. I already knew an apprenticeship was what I wanted to do rather than going to college full time, so I was already looking specifically for apprenticeships when I found the opportunity with Clearvision.
The main place I was looking for apprenticeships was a government portal, which lists all the available apprenticeships within an industry. Clearvision was actually the only one on there that had anything to do with software and programming. Most of the IT apprenticeships they listed were to do with support roles, rather than software development, but I knew development was where I wanted to go.
Q. So software development apprenticeships are quite rare?
A. It seemed that way, but maybe it always does when you’re the one looking! I think they’re more common for IT support than software programming, but they’re out there if you take the time to look for them. It seems like they’re becoming more common.
Q. How did you find it, coming in as Clearvision’s very first apprentice?
A. One of the best things I found about the apprenticeship was actually that I didn’t feel any different, even though I was the only apprentice there. I was treated like an employee, so it felt like being just another member of the dev team. Really the only difference was that I was only there for four days a week, because I had one day a week where I was at college.
Q. And was it ever difficult to balance work and college together?
A. For me, I found there was a nice divide between the two. Because I had that one day at college, it was easy to focus on work at work and college at college, so even though in both places I was technically working on things to go towards my apprenticeship, it felt very separate. There was a good balance in social relationships as well, which probably helped. I was meeting like-minded people in work and at college, but they were all very different at the same time. We had lots of different things in common, not just programming.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced? You say you felt like an employee – was it a steep learning curve?
A. Well I’d always been interested in programming and it was something I’d taught myself, so in a way that took away one big challenge. Since I didn’t need any basic programming training, I could get started straight away. For me the biggest challenge was adapting to industry standards and software development patterns. Agile, for example – it took me a while to get used to working that way, and then a little while longer to be convinced about it!
Q. You’re an agile convert now, though?
A. Yeah, it just takes some adjustment. It’s all part of learning about those industry standards.
Q. And what was most enjoyable about doing an apprenticeship?
A. Getting paid to do programming! I found doing an apprenticeship meant I really got the best of both worlds. I got a starter job in the software development industry, and it’s a job I really enjoy, and then I also got qualifications out of it as well. It was good to be treated like I was one of the employees too. It gave me more than just experience related to my specific role. I got a lot of general knowledge about the work place environment that will help me a lot in the future.
Q. You’re now a full time member of the development team with Clearvision. How was that transition?
A. The transition was fine – and the pay rise was very nice!
The biggest difference was that I went from working four days a week to five, since I didn’t have one day at college. But I’d already been trained to work at the company, and I was already working as part of the dev team and knew everyone I worked with. My apprenticeship was a year long, so I’d been working at Clearvision for long enough that it didn’t feel like a huge change. I think it sounds like it’s going to be a bigger jump than it actually is, but that’s the great thing about apprenticeships. They prepare you.
Q. So do you have any advice for anyone out there thinking about an apprenticeship or struggling to choose their next step?
A. I think my advice would be if you’re trying to decide, go for the apprenticeship. You’ll be doing the same thing you would be if you went straight into a job, but you come out with qualifications at the end of it as well. And you get qualifications and job experience, not one or the other.
An apprenticeship will help a lot in the future – I learnt about the industry and my job, but I also learnt about things like employee rights and the legal aspects of work that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’d say treat looking for an apprenticeship like going for job interviews. I was felt more like an employee, even while I was an apprentice, but that probably varies from place to place. You have to look around. Look for something you enjoy!
Q. And how about your next steps?
A. At the moment I’m enjoying being a permanent member of staff at Clearvision! I’ve also been accepted to study Computer Science at uni, which I’m looking forward to. While I’m there I’m hoping to get back to making games, which is something I used to do more of before I started my apprenticeship. My “pie in the sky” goal is to someday run my own games company.
We look forward to that!
To discover apprenticeships in your area, search via Gov.co.uk.
And if you like the sound of becoming the latest member of the Clearvision workforce, there’s good news – we’re hiring! You can browse and apply for our current vacancies here. If you’re passionate about building better software, we want to hear from you!
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