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First set of Capgemini degree apprentices graduate

The first graduates of Capgemini's degree apprentice programme tell Computer Weekly about their experiences

The initial cohort of 11 apprentices in Capgemini’s scheme, which offers on-the-job training and a degree, have now graduated and begun full-time work at the supplier.

The four-and-a-half year course combines on-the-job experience at Capgemini business customers, and a university course for a BSc (hons) in Digital and Technology Solutions Aston University, with the fees paid by Capgemini.

Apprentices receive a salary worth £10,000 a year from the start, but this is raised to £16,000 once the initial ten-week boot camp is complete and they move to client sites.

Capgemini already offered apprentice schemes, but this is the first to use the degree apprenticeship model, which the company has worked with government to create. Seven of the initial group of 11 got first class and the others second class degrees.

The number of participants is expected to be 50 a year over the next five years, with another 240 apprentices are currently on the programme with Aston University and will graduate over the next five years.

Once the course is complete, apprentices take full-time roles at Capgemini including software developers, technical applications consultants, insights and data consultants as well as cyber security professionals.

Participants come from a variety of backgrounds, with a large proportion moving to the scheme after A Levels, but entry is flexible.

Read more about IT apprenticeships

Apprentices that have completed the Aston University and Capgemini programme tell Computer Weekly about their journeys.

Greg Wolverson, 24, graduated in May 2017. He joined the programme after completing his A Levels in business and economics, PE and IT. “I didn’t have any visions of going to university and was not sure what I wanted to do,” he said.

In the middle of his final year of A Levels, he began to realise an IT career was what he wanted. “I wanted to go into the world of work,” he said.

He was then directed to the government’s apprenticeship website by a friend, which led him to applying for the Capgemini programme.

He said he was always interested in IT when growing up, but didn’t know much about software development. “When I started to read up on it, I got interested.”

Getting up to speed

Initially, during the first ten weeks, the team he was in learned about Java and other web technologies to get them “up to speed” before spending a week in the Capgemini business to shadow people on real world projects.

“Then we all joined up with different project across the UK,” said Wolverson.

This was daunting at first, he added. “I was a bit apprehensive at first because we were the first intake and I was wondering if we would be trusted with tasks and whether we were really wanted. But from day one the teams we joined were really inclusive and we were treated no differently to experienced hires and given as much responsibility as we wanted.”

He said during his time on the programme he has mainly worked at public sector clients of Capgemini. This has seen him work on large enterprise systems. “It is daunting at first but there is a massive amount of support around you.”

“Going into a programme like this, where you come out with no debt and lots of experience, is invaluable now”

Greg Wolverson, Capgemini apprentice

Wolverson believes an apprentice scheme that offers a full degree and work experience is an advantage for people that want to work in IT.

“Doing the degree alongside work helps you realise how critical the practical experience is,” he said. “The technology moves so quickly that when you are on the degrees, although the content is still relevant, it is always going to be slightly behind the curve.”

“It is getting harder to get a job after university, so going into a programme like this, where you come out with no debt and lots of experience, is invaluable now,” said Wolverson.

Struggling to get jobs

Alex Johnson, 25, had also just finished his A Levels and was not sure what he wanted to do. He had been put off from going to university due to the experiences of some friends. “I knew people who had been through university and were struggling to get jobs and were in debt because of student fees.”

With A Levels in media studies, English language and literature, and art and photography, he was unsure about his next step.

When looking at his options he looked on the government’s apprenticeship website and found the opportunity with Capgemini.

“I hadn’t done much on the software side but had always built computers and tinkered with them”

Alex Johnson, Capgemini apprentice

Although his A Levels are not normally associated with a degree or career in IT, he said he always had an interest in computers. “I did not really think I would get on the course but did.”

“I hadn’t done much on the software side but had always built computers and tinkered with them,” he said.

On the programme, he has worked in a mix of public and private sector work, which was with large retailers.

Supporting front-end systems

At the retailers he was involved with supporting front-end systems such as websites as well as back end stock systems.

He believes his friends that went on to university, in the more traditional way, are having a harder time. “The majority of them have got jobs but they found it more difficult.

“I would recommend an IT apprentice scheme to anyone knowing what I know now about the advantages,” he said. “A guaranteed job, good pay and five years’ experience is fantastic.”

Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “Degree apprenticeships are a significant step forward, providing the opportunity to develop and nurture talented individuals, and are a key part of our apprenticeships reform programme.” The service hopes to create three million quality apprenticeships by 2020.

Ian Nabney, executive dean of the school of engineering and applied science at Aston University, added: “Degree apprenticeships are a valuable option to applicants whose learning style is less suited to a traditional on-campus study route. The difference in delivery allows them to apply their learning in the workplace rather than the classroom. This offers those with the right skills and aptitudes a challenging but rewarding route to graduate level jobs, while their academic achievement is recognised as being at the same high level as a traditionally-earned degree.”

Working towards diversity 

But there are challenges ahead, and work needs to be done to attract more girls to IT apprentice programmes, and this is an industry-wide issue. Accenture has struggled to get girls to join its flagship apprentice programme in Newcastle, and business process automation services firm Voyager solutions only had one female on its recent cohort.

Capgemini has recognised this shortfall and is working to fix it. Ruth South, head of graduate and apprenticeship programmes at Capgemini, said: “There’s no denying that our all-male first cohort of degree apprenticeship graduates is a stark indicator of the need to do even more to encourage girls into Stem careers; and with the target to ensure that 40% of our graduate and apprentice hires are women this year, this situation is set to change over time and we’re delighted that our 2018 cohort will be 23% female.”

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This is such a great idea. At least the introduction of fees has made people think harder about whether the "snob value" of a degree is really worth it. 
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