Fourteen students make up the first-ever cohort of Degree Apprentices in Wales, all of whom will graduate this year with a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Software Engineering from the Department of Computer Science.
The Degree Apprenticeship Programme combines traditional academic learning in a University environment with work-based projects which allow the students to apply their newly acquired academic knowledge within their specific job roles in their companies. This innovative programme allows the students to “earn and learn”, to remain in full-time employment whilst earning a BSc (Hons) degree which contextualises their academic learning in their work-place environment.
Paul Finch, an employee of EPS Construction Ltd, is one of this year’s graduates. He focused his final year project on designing software that would help to solve a problem for his employer. His company’s Director, Jonathan Fleming, has said that his company has enjoyed huge benefits as a result:
“As part of his final-year project, Paul created a bespoke piece of software that forms part of our back-end financial systems. We anticipate that this software will save EPS £400,000 a year in recovered contract variances.”
Paul himself enjoyed the course and the challenges that it offered:
“I have enjoyed the time and, most importantly, learned new skills that have benefitted my business and myself.”
Owen Dane Griffiths, another of this year’s graduates, was similarly enthusiastic about his experiences:
“Although I found it hard, it was the best decision I ever made; I would highly recommend studying the Degree Apprenticeship at Swansea University.”
Courses are fully funded for the student, with support from the Institute of Coding (IoC) in Wales and the Welsh Government through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). The IoC in Wales is a major partnership led by Swansea University which is a part of the National Institute of Coding based in England. It was established to address the recognised digital skills gap in the workforce and create the next generation of digital specialists. Originally envisaged as a way to help rectify a ‘skills shortage’ in Computer Science within the region, the Degree Apprenticeship Programme is proving incredibly popular: Swansea University will have over 75 Applied Software Engineering degree apprentices enrolled for the next academic year.
The DVLA, among other organisations, has been involved with and greatly supported the Degree apprenticeship programme from its inception as a Foundation Degree in 2012. Several staff members from DVLA formed part of the first graduate cohort and this is what it means for the organisations. DVLA Chief Technology Officer Brian Sullivan said:
“We’re focused on recruiting and developing staff across a wide range of roles in IT. I’m always excited about changes in IT and enthusiastic about how we can improve. The apprenticeship scheme allows everyone, whether brand new to IT or working in it for many years, to increase their skills and ensure they can excel both now and in the future.”
Other large companies such as Admiral Insurance recognise the benefits of the programme in providing CPD for staff, as well as offering solutions to problems within the work environment. Mark Marrin, IT Operations Manager praised the value of the programme for his employees:
“Jamie has made the most of the opportunity to take part in the programme have achieved a 1st class degree. We’re very proud of the effort he put into his studies while continuing to be a key member of our IT team. The knowledge he has gained has enabled us to develop our capabilities and Jamie to become a more rounded IT professional.”
As a result, uptake for the programme has increased substantially in recent years and its reputation continues to grow.
Professor Faron Moller, Director of Technocamps and the Head of the IoC in Wales, was keen to praise the work ethic and commitment of this year’s graduates, and encouraged more employers to take advantage of the programme and the benefits it can bring to their companies:
“Whilst the Degree Apprenticeship Framework in Wales has only been introduced this past year, the Computer Science Department at Swansea University – and in particular its national outreach and engagement operation Technocamps – has for many years promoted digital higher apprenticeship programmes. We thus had a cohort of apprentices ready and able to enter directly into the final year of the Degree Apprenticeship programme when they were introduced in Wales last year. We are proud to be leading Wales on this front.”
Swansea University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Stringer congratulated the apprentices on their success and looked forward to seeing them formally graduating in December 2019:
“We are very pleased that this year we have the first cohort of Degree Apprenticeships graduating. It is very important in terms of improving the skills of the workforce in the region. We continue to foster excellent links with the wider industry and work with many local companies to up-skill their staff. We look forward to helping to develop the skills needed within the industry to improve the economy and build for the digital future.”