From Apprentice to Technologist: Inspiring the next generation of tech leaders

Aug 24, 2020

The Software Engineering Graduate Level Apprenticeship aspires to help inspire the next generation of tech leaders. The program started in 2015 and has already had 97 apprentices enter the program, and fifteen of them are graduating this year.

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High school, university, work. For many interested in entering the field of tech, this is the “usual” path. But for students accepted into the J.P. Morgan Software Engineering Graduate Level Apprenticeship Program in Bournemouth and Glasgow, things look a bit different. Rather than going straight off to college or University, high school students accepted into the four year UK apprenticeship program begin their full time careers with the firm while simultaneously earning a degree in Digital and Tech Solutions in Bournemouth or Software Development in Glasgow.  Compromised of four days at the bank, and one day a week at either the University of Exeter or Strathclyde University, apprentices are able to gain real life experiences working in the corporate world while also being immersed in academia from one of the most prestigious research schools.

Once the apprentices have reached the third year into the program in Bournemouth, they are asked to specialize in a field of their choice- whether its cyber, data analytics, etc. What makes this program unique is the fact that students do not need to have a background in tech before beginning their apprenticeship career. As an alternative to university, which would normally be a 3-4 year degree program in the UK, students join the program and get their degree and job experience all at the same time, and enjoy full time employee benefits and pay included. The expectation is that apprentices learn while on the job. Just like they would if they went to the traditional university, students in the apprenticeship program need to meet a certain requirement within their studies in order to remain in the program. While most people focus on a work life balance upon graduating college, these apprentices are also juggling their studies.

J.P. Morgan’s Tech for Social Good Youth team has been encouraging students to consider a degree in tech for a number of years, through programs like Generation Tech. This program is a tech design challenge for 14-18 year old students, where they design wireframes and mockups of tech solutions and apps that could solve social good challenges. The Generation Tech event hopes to inspire the next generation of talent to pursue STEM or tech related degrees and careers, while working to address one of the UN global sustainable goals.

Zoe Macdonald, Reference Data Technology Apprentice in her second year, found out about the program by participating in Generation Tech. “Often a career in STEM can be portrayed as mundane or repetitive, but by exposing young people to the more interesting and exciting side of technology, they get a chance to expand their interests and possibly career aspirations to something they may not have considered before,” explains Macdonald.

Although not a direct pathway to the apprenticeship program, initiatives like Generation Tech and the Tech for Social Good Youth team hope to help bridge the gender gap between females and the tech field, and inspire the next generation of girls in STEM. “These programs demonstrate that computer science is open to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background, and inspires students into a rewarding career in computer science” explains Robbie Robinson, Tech for Social Good, Youth Global Co-Lead.

“When I joined I had limited experience but with the support of my team I have quickly picked things up and developed my ability. I have had the opportunity to work on key projects whilst building my skillset, which has been important to both my personal and professional development. I feel that the apprenticeship program is a great alternative to full-time university as I have been able to gain invaluable experience in the workplace whilst working towards a degree,” said Lucy Randall, a 3rd year apprentice in Bournemouth.

Though the apprenticeship program only started in 2015, it has already won the 2019 “Large Employer of the Year” and the 2018 “Promoting Diversity Large Employer of the Year” categories, at the national Scottish Apprenticeship Awards - a testament to not only the program, but to the talented group of apprentices that give their time and hard work to support it.                                                       

This year’s program has 22 apprentices that are working in a multitude of lines of business at the firm. To learn more about opportunities within the apprenticeship program, visit: Bournemouth Apprenticeship & Glasgow Apprenticeship.