Apprenticeships are a great way to earn while you learn, but what do they actually involve?! James, an alumni apprentice from our recent DDaT scheme is here to tell you.
How I got here
Before joining Welsh Government I had been working as a self-employed web designer for 10 years. I was good at making websites for small businesses, but I really wanted to expand my knowledge and learn more about all aspects of digital. I was also unhappy with how unpredictable being self-employed was and wanted to build a more stable career for myself and my family.
Being mostly self-taught I knew that I would need some formal qualifications, but I was reluctant to go back to full-time education as I felt those days were behind me and I couldn’t really take the pay cut that came with it. Whilst mulling over how to proceed, I took on a temporary admin job with Welsh Government to help make ends meet. It was while working there that I heard about the Digital, Data & Technology (DDaT) Apprenticeship. It was the perfect answer for me: I could gain experience working, expand my knowledge and get a qualification at the end; all whilst earning a decent wage. What’s not to like!
What I did during my placements
I applied for the apprenticeship and, somewhat to my surprise, was successful! I started my first placement with a team responsible for the design, development, testing and support of a software system. I was excited to find myself in this team as I would be able to learn about the whole lifecycle of a piece of software. I met everyone, they were very supportive and I settled in nicely… but soon all of our lives would change!
The Covid-19 pandemic started around the same time I started my apprenticeship and after only being in the team for five weeks, we were told we would all be working from home going forward. At the time this was a big concern for me! How was I going to work effectively? Would I be able to learn from people when we weren’t in the same room? Would I get the support I needed?
But I needn’t have worried. Welsh Government is very forward thinking when it comes to flexible working and we already had all the kit we needed in place. There were a few challenges initially as we all adjusted: meetings and training went from the office to online. But with some great support from the team and Welsh Government we soon all settled in. The team were great at keeping in touch and providing support virtually, so despite spending 95% of my apprenticeship working from home, I don’t feel I have been disadvantaged at all. I’ve been able to contribute to work and learn as easily as if I were there in person.
Normally we would have had 3 placements during the apprenticeship, but due to Covid things have been a little different and the second one was put on hold. But after a while (when it became apparent we wouldn’t be going back to normal anytime soon!) we moved to our second placement. My second placement was very different to the first. Where before I was very hands-on with IT, this new team had a much more overarching role looking at policy and the future for DDaT in Welsh Government. My two main focuses were on making sure data could still flow to and from Europe after Brexit, and the Welsh Governments future Digital Strategy for Wales.
I’ve learnt a great deal during my apprenticeship: providing IT support, testing systems, carrying out business analysis, project management, agile working, learning about the Welsh Government Digital Strategy for Wales and also the Welsh Government response to Brexit and Covid-19. But the favourite bits for me have been when I’ve been able to solve problems. I got to do a lot of this whilst working on the support desk in my first placement. Every day was different and you never knew what was going to come into the mailbox!
I have now completed my Digital, Data and Technology apprenticeship and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It has been a great opportunity to learn new skills, develop existing ones, build a great network and earn a qualification.
I have also been impressed by Welsh Government, they are very forward thinking and flexible when it comes to working practices and that makes it easy to maintain a good work life balance.
Also after completing the apprenticeship I was delighted to be offered a permanent position in the team I worked with in my first placement. Now I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next!
Post by James Digital, Data and Technology Apprentice
If James’ blog has inspired you to consider becoming a DDaT Apprentice, you can find out more about all our apprenticeship schemes on the Welsh Government Apprentices website. We will be recruiting our next cohort of DDaT apprentices in March 2022 and will be updating the website with details shortly. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more apprentice blogs over the coming months