National Apprenticeship Week 2020 - Making Impact

As National Apprenticeship Week is upon us, we’ve taken five minutes out of our busy schedule to share a coffee and a chat with some of our apprentices, both present and past. 

Joining us on the current apprenticeships team are Oskar Wenta and Bruno Pereira. Telling us about past success being an apprentice is Scott Drinkwater. And our guest speaker is Cheryl Guest, our Operations Director, who manages our apprentices and is here to provide us with a view from the side of an employer.

First up, our current apprentices

Oskar and Bruno are two of the three apprentices currently working at Unique IQ. Oskar joined us fresh from school and Bruno has a history in Engineering research. 

Why did you want to become an apprentice?

Bruno I wanted a career change. I was studying engineering before and I wanted to change to coding. I had read into coding and tried some, but to be taken seriously I needed the experience within a workplace setting. The apprenticeship has been an entry point for me into the world of coding.

OskarI’ve always been interested in coding. The opportunity for an apprenticeship was an entry point for me into the world of coding. As I didn’t need much experience, it meant I could get started immediately, which is what I was looking for. 

What made you choose this option, instead of education such as a degree?

Bruno I have spent a lot of time in education already. I wanted to get straight into work experience. The thought of another five years in education really turned me off the idea.

Oskar – I tried sixth form very briefly, but found it was more of the same thing as school, I wanted to work, and the apprenticeship offered this.

What have you gained from the experience of being an apprentice?

Bruno – I think most of the experience has been in how the industry works. It’s been really useful to learn about time management, working with a team to meet a set goal, as in my study it was mostly solo projects. It was really fun to watch how a business works, from the interaction with a new sale to them becoming a client of ours and me providing them with information. It has been a really interesting experience the whole way through.

Oskar – I’ve gained a lot of work experience and the coding knowledge I have gained in a short time has been amazing. It has been good to put the practice I learn at college into actual work. Learning from working on real world examples has been very useful; I feel I have learned more because of this.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since becoming an apprentice? 

Bruno – The initial getting started, moving from engineering to coding.

Oskar – It’s probably the travel for me *laughs* as I don’t drive. In my role, it was probably the initial start of coding, since I didn’t really know any before, that was a new experience for me.

What have you worked on that you feel has made the biggest impact on Unique IQ and its software

Oskar – Of all those that stand out, it’s the Family & Client Portal integration into IQ:careplanner. I helped to design the layout and look of the portal and wrote most of the code, with help from my colleague, Ben. 

For one of our clients, Autism Together, I created a shift picker module within their system. It helps to eliminate the number of processes between a worker and the allocation of care coverage by allowing an office member using IQ:careplanner to upload visits to the Autism Together portal and the carers can then pick their shifts, automatically receiving the necessary information about the visit. To make it as easy as possible for the carers, they can access the portal using their mobile devices as well as a computer. 

Bruno – I enjoy bringing new features to the software we create, especially when clients approach us for something in particular and we go above and beyond their expectations. Such as usability, colour coding, accessibility – it’s the little bit more to a feature the client wasn’t expecting, and they really appreciate. 

There has been one client in particular I have enjoyed working with, which is Autism Together as we have developed IQ:careplanner into a customised system for their requirements. As part of this, I helped to reduce one of their main processes from a typical hour long down to less than ten seconds. There was a lot of implementation as part of this and it has been one of the biggest coding challenges I have faced since starting Unique IQ and I really enjoyed learning from it.

Any advice for those looking into becoming an apprentice?

Oskar – Yeh, I would definitely say go for it. Especially if you don’t really want to go through school, but you’re interested in a specific career and you don’t want to do all of the exams, it is a great opportunity to do that. It gets you right into the work, it’s better for learning as there’s actual real-world learning which applies to real things, instead of reading from a textbook or looking at PowerPoints. You get the experience of a real office life too. You’re more prepared for life. 

Bruno – An apprentice really is different to university, but in a lot of good ways. It gives you experience, which I have found is really, really important as I have found recruiters are looking for the experience and not the subject knowledge, such as a degree.

Does Unique IQ and the apprentice scheme give you plenty of support?

Oskar – Absolutely. Our hands aren’t held, instead we are pointed in a set direction, we’re independent on finding our own way to do things, which is also a big help in learning as you are allowed to learn at your own speed and style. 

Bruno – I like the freedom that we have. As Unique IQ is a smaller company, it gives us the opportunity to work on a range of different areas of the system, whether that is testing or development. I know I wouldn’t have this opportunity in a larger company as they generally expect you to remain specialised in only one area.