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Software Developer Apprenticeship: we catch up with Auto Trader's apprentices

Software Developer Apprenticeship: we catch up with Auto Trader apprentices

If you’re struggling to hire developers, you’re not alone. Many organisations are addressing the skills shortage problem head-on by opting to develop their own talent pipeline.

Increasingly, many are doing so through the Manchester Digital Level Four Software Developer Apprenticeship – a programme that’s been co-designed and is co-delivered by developers from within our membership – meaning that apprentices receive cutting-edge technical training underpinned by a strong focus on improving vital professional skills such as communication, collaboration, team-working and commercial awareness.

Auto Trader – an organisation committed to proactively addressing the skills shortage – is a key supporter of our apprenticeship programme.

As such, we thought we’d catch up with some of their apprentices to find out a little bit more about their pathways into software development and what they’ve thought of being an apprentice.

Meet the apprentices

To begin with, introduce yourself, where you work and what apprenticeship you're studying for

I’m Jason Motee and I’m currently working with Auto Trader as part of the Level Four Software Developer Apprenticeship.

Hey, I ‘m Charlie Say, one of the Level 4 Software Developer Apprentices here at AutoTrader UK. I currently work on our Stock and Search Platform, which is responsible for you guessed it stock and search!

I’m Jenni and I’m also currently studying the Manchester Digital software developer apprenticeship whilst working at Auto Trader.

 

Hi, I’m Jemma, I work at Auto Trader and I’m studying for the apprentice software developer programme with Manchester Digital.

What made you want to get involved with an apprenticeship scheme?

Jason - During my time working as a Software Tester, I became more intrigued in software development. Taking part in the apprenticeship was a brilliant way for me to reach the next step of my career.

Jenni - After working at Auto Trader for a few years, I realised development was what I wanted to do. After taking a look at the routes into it, I decided an apprenticeship was for me so I could get the training and education I need.

Charlie - I had an interest in software and gaming for a long time. I was in retail previous to this current job, and I thought I just needed a change as I loved seeing code. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a way in, to learn and be paid at the same time.

Jemma - I wanted to work in development and it’s a great way to learn and gain work experience at the same time instead of simply studying alone.

What do you make of the programme? Was it what you expected? If not, what surprised you?

Jason - The programme provides an array of resources to help you including boot camps where industry professionals share their expertise and experience, which I’ve found extremely enlightening.

Jenni - The program was a lot more in depth that I was expecting. The first 4 weeks involved a boot camp where we learned about java from the ground up which was great to really get to grips with the language.

Charlie - It was rich in content and generally all-round good upskilling. The thing that surprised me was how graceful a workplace was with learning. You know, you hear horror stories of apprentices being thrown into the deep-end having to do something totally unattainable for their skillset. But this apprenticeship provided the right practical experience and it was OK to fail and learn from it.

Jemma - The programme is similar to what I had expected, though this may be due to the high standards I already associate with Auto Trader. A lot of time and effort is given to you both individually and as an apprenticeship group which is invaluable to learning.

Do you feel apprenticeships prepare you to take your career forward after completing the apprenticeship?

Jason - Yes, the apprenticeship centres around hands-on experience within the workplace so you’re constantly up to date on the latest processes, methodologies and tech.

Jenni - Definitely, being immersed in my team and in the industry has meant that I’ve not only learned how to code, but I’ve also learned how to code in a real-work environment. Seeing everything from sprint cycles, stand-ups, prioritising backlogs – I’ve really gotten a feel for how being a software developer works in the real world. Because of this, I feel a lot more prepared for real-world developing than I think I would have if I had done a degree or classroom qualification instead.

Jemma - Yes, I feel the apprenticeship definitely prepares you for your career afterwards. You’re already part of a team in the workplace and able to make meaningful contributions, I feel the transition will be a lot easier once the apprenticeship is completed.

Finally, what has been your favourite part about being an apprentice on the programme since joining?

Jason - Having the freedom to continuously learn something that you’re passionate about has been incredibly fulfilling.

Jenni - My favourite thing has been the networking opportunities, spending time with other apprentices. Also, going to various early career events has meant that I have been able to meet plenty of like-minded people in the same situation as me.

Jemma - For me, it’s being able to get so much support and encouragement both within Auto Trader and from the other apprentices themselves. Being able to share the experience with others at the same level has been fantastic. Also having the advantage of many experienced developers dedicated to assist and teach us has been endlessly beneficial.

Charlie - Honestly, the other apprentices on this course with me, everyone here is similar minded and easy to talk to. Including the cohort of apprentices that have started after my cohort. We talk quite a bit, and it’s good to share experiences and know stuff is OK!

We also caught up with Oscar, who, like Charlie is finishing cohort 2 which means his time on the programme is almost coming to an end, leaving him free to start his career.

Tell us about what you did during your apprenticeship and what you do now.

As an apprentice, I paired with other members of the Stock and Search team to fix bugs and implement new features in existing applications. I also worked with other apprentices to create an entirely new system from scratch to replace an older one! Now that my apprenticeship is just about complete, I’m resuming work on that system to get it ready to replace its predecessor.

What made you initially want to get involved with an apprenticeship scheme?

I realised some things during my time at Sixth Form and decided that it wasn’t the right time for me to go to University. I still wanted to carry on learning, and I also wanted to finally start earning for myself. I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to do both of those things.

What did you make of the programme? Was it what you expected? If not, what surprised you?

I didn’t have any particularly strong-rooted expectations, but I suppose the biggest surprise was that the work I did meant something. Most of the stories I’d heard about apprenticeships before painted a picture of fetching tea and doing small odd jobs, but I actually did real work on real systems, that reached real customers.

What did the apprenticeship bring to your early career?

I’ve been learning to program for about 5+ years, from GCSE through A-Level. I would say by the end of it all, I had a grasp of basic programming concepts and a glimpse of what real software work looks like. I’ve finished up the last of my apprenticeship work very recently, and whilst I’m still waiting for my grade, I’m fairly confident that the knowledge I’ve gained from working in a real workplace, and the connections I’ve made doing so, are going to be the biggest factors in getting my career started and getting me closer towards my goals.

Finally, what has been your favourite part of undertaking an apprenticeship?

There have been many wonderful parts, but my personal favourite part has been independence. Coming straight from Sixth Form, I’d previously been reliant on family for my living situation, and regular homework and coursework pressure had meant there was little separating work from home. During the apprenticeship, I learned just as much, if not more, than at Sixth Form. I’ve been able to move out on my own, as well as pick up new hobbies and really be in the moment doing things I enjoy due to the absence of the constant pressure to work outside of my hours.

Finally, we also caught up with Chloe, another Auto Trader Software Developer who is studying an apprenticeship albeit through Manchester Metropolitan University rather than ourselves.

 

My name is Chloe and I’m a Software Developer at Auto Trader. I’m based in the Customer Tools and Billing tribe, where I work on building new features for Auto Trader’s customers. I am currently in my final year of studying for a degree apprenticeship in Digital and Technology Solutions (Software Engineering pathway) at MMU.

What made you want to get involved with an apprenticeship scheme?

I had already left college and have been working full time for a few years when I discovered coding and realised that it was what I wanted to do as a career. I didn’t really want to give up my full-time wages to go to uni so an apprenticeship was the perfect option for me!

What did you make of the programme? Was it what you expected? If not, what surprised you?

At first, I was a little apprehensive as I had been out of education for a few years, and the degree was a 4-year scheme so it seemed like a really big commitment. I was also worried about the workload and whether or not I would be able to handle it. The workload has definitely been challenging at times, but I can’t believe how fast the four years have gone! What seemed like such a massive commitment at the start has really flown by. Another thing that surprised me about the programme is how much I actually learn on the job. I was expecting to be doing most of my learning at university, and then putting that in into practice at work, but I’ve actually found that it’s been the opposite. I learn so much at work, which then helps me when it comes to my uni assignments.

Do you feel apprenticeships prepares you to take your career forward after completing the apprenticeship?

Yes definitely - I will have four years experience as a Software Developer by the time I graduate, which is something that not a lot of graduates can say!

Finally, what has been your favourite part about being an apprentice and the programme since joining?

I have really enjoyed getting involved in promoting apprenticeships at different events. There can be a bit of a stigma around apprenticeships, as they aren’t promoted in schools as much as college and university are (at least they weren’t when I was at school), but it’s great to see people’s opinions change when you share your experience. I’ve even had people approach me in work and ask me for advice on how their children can apply for an apprenticeship!

Want to find out more about apprenticeship?

 

If you would like to find out more about Manchester Digital’s Level Four Software Developer Apprenticeship, you can find out here.

Alternatively, follow this link to see other apprentice providers within the region.