Case study

Apprentice software engineer — Kiera Bowdidge

After finishing her A-levels, Kiera secured a software engineering degree apprenticeship with professional services firm KPMG in the UK, which gives her the opportunity to achieve a Bachelors degree from Queen Mary University of London

Why did you decide to do a degree apprenticeship?

I think the idea of working while you're getting a degree is incredibly rewarding - not to mention how much experience you get over the five years compared to going straight out of university into a job. Nowadays, experience in industry is very important, so gaining that alongside a degree in the area you're working in is highly recognisable to companies. There are many other benefits financially, such as receiving a salary while working and also getting your degree paid for as well, meaning there's no debt at the end.

Did you need any previous tech experience before starting your degree apprenticeship?

I came from a background of maths, engineering and product design (my A-Levels) so this gave me a head start. However, even if you don't have any tech experience, you'll be taught everything from scratch at university.

How did you find and apply for your degree apprenticeship with KPMG?

I found it using various career and recruitment websites such as Indeed as well as GOV.UK - Apprenticeships.

How does the degree apprenticeship work?

The software engineering degree apprenticeship lasts for five years. The first three years are spent at university, with the fourth year in industry and then you go back to university for the final year. During the time you're at university, you'll spend two days a week there during term time, attending lectures, seminars and labs etc. For the other three days a week, you'll be working for KPMG, getting to work on projects within the software engineering team. Outside of term time you'll work five days a week for KPMG - similar to working for a year in industry. You'll be expected to complete tasks for specific projects and help build secure, scalable and reliable systems for clients or internal stakeholders.

What do you enjoy about your degree apprenticeship?

Many opportunities arise from being an apprentice, such as encouraging young people into apprentiships and getting the chance to be a mentor. I enjoy networking within the firm, learning new things every day and developing in my role.

What's the most challenging part of your degree apprenticeship?

It's being able to balance your workload with your university and project work, as being organised and disciplined with yourself can be quite challenging, especially at times when the university work gets more intense.

What support have you received?

We have lots of support from both the university and KPMG. At Queen Mary University of London we have an academic adviser/mentor who regularly checks up on apprentices to see how they're doing. At KPMG, when you first join you are paired with a buddy, usually an apprentice from the year above, to ease you into work and to answer any informal questions you may have. You also have a tech buddy who you can go to with all your tech-related questions. Finally, you have a performance manager who you catch up with on a monthly basis. They can offer help with guiding your career and anything in particular you want to work on.

What are your plans for after your degree apprenticeship?

I plan on staying at KPMG and eventually moving up to management level as a senior developer. I enjoy working on the project I've been involved with, so I'd love to be a project manager or a team principal.

What advice would you give to others considering a degree apprenticeship?

Do research into the company you want to work for and the degree you'll get at the end. Look at the university and the course and really look into the modules you'll be taking and decide if it's for you. You'll put a lot of time into the degree so make sure you find something you're passionate about and will enjoy.

What more can be done to increase female representation in technology?

Having more females in leadership positions so that people can look up to them as role models and be motivated to be more diverse.

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