Catapulting talented high-school students to success

At Derivco Ipswich, identifying and developing talent from an early age is important to us. To do this, we run a yearly apprenticeship programme which not only gives promising high-school students a fully funded degree in Computer Science, but also provides them with the opportunity to embark on paid work experience with us.

This year, two students from Kesgrave High School were chosen for the Apprenticeship Programme and performed so well during their six-week work experience that they were offered fulltime positions at Derivco Ipswich. Jacki Williamson, Head of Careers and Work Experience at Kesgrave High School, believes the “earn as you learn” philosophy is a great option for students. “I am delighted to see the growth in the number of degree level apprenticeships offered locally as these provide an excellent alternative to University. The opportunity to learn as you earn and also end up with a degree is one which I would imagine will appeal to an increasing number of young people who want to start their working life debt-free.”

We interviewed Adam Fox and Ross Baker about their experience.

Congrats guys on your achievements! Tell us, what got you interested in this field?

Adam: I think that anything related to computer science, programming and technology is amazing! Computer science is just an incredibly interesting subject which is integrated thoroughly into our way of life. With computer science you can work on a range of exciting projects: from programming little robots to learn more about miniscule organisms, to working on colossal spacecraft sent to explore the universe. Computer science also helps to solve what truly matters in the world: connecting people, improving medical care, improving education, improving energy production and in general, people’s lives. Just think about how different our lives would be without any electronic devices! How will I be able to socialize then? Face-to-face conversations? Yuck. Computer science is taking over the world and I am loving everything about it.

Ross: Before the internship, I was always interested in computer science with programming at the heart of my interest. The problem solving and the way every piece works together smoothly, to solve the issue or create something new, gave me a hobby I really enjoyed.

Tell us about your experience at Derivco?

Adam: We were assigned to a workstation and we were put straight to work getting used to C# programming, learning about the backup system for files and learning about clean code.

Throughout the six weeks we received interesting and informative lessons. For example, we learnt about threads, the agile work process, object oriented code, how the business is run, and APIs etc. After two weeks, we moved on the really interesting part of producing software that the company would end up implementing into their device rack. I liked that we were assigned a task where the final product would be used rather than just being thrown away after we left. We spent the next four weeks working on this program.

During out internship, a representative from Essex University came in to talk about the degree apprenticeships they were offering. This gave me some information on the course that I would end up being chosen for.

On the final few days we had to present our product to the rest of the company and essentially say goodbye. As it was an optional meeting I thought that only a few people would turn up… it was actually the whole company! We needed the largest conference room in the building to fit everyone in. It was a little intimidating!

But all-in-all, it was a wonderful experience.

Ross: During the six weeks we attended some lessons where someone from the company would teach us about a new area of programming that we hadn’t experienced before and help us with any problems we had. Although none had prior teaching training, they were all fantastic. We learnt a lot.

The main impact of the six weeks for me was working with the other interns on a group project. Working in a team on a computer science project was new to me and helped me improve in areas of organisation, communication and how to explain code with words. For this project, we were involved from the design stage to the publishing stage, which gave us a great understanding of how software development works.

How do you feel about being offered fulltime positions?

Adam: Derivco seems like a great place to work! The overall mood of the place is just great. Everyone was friendly and supporting while the atmosphere was bright, colourful and just a nice place to be. The food was great (way better than the canteen food I usually have at school). The pool table, the putting green and the videogames provided a great way to relax during breaks. I don’t know any other companies who offer that!

I’m also really excited to work for Derivco as I love to learn. I’ve already learnt so much from Derivco already so I can’t wait to learn even more during the degree apprenticeship.

Ross: I am really excited to start working for Derivco. The atmosphere of the workplace is great, the people are friendly and for me, the amount of knowledge that you gain from hands-on experience beats sitting in a classroom.

I’ve received such a lot support from the company, so this is a great opportunity for me. After the apprenticeship, I want to continue my career in software development and accumulate more skills and I see myself eventually being in a position where I could help interns or new people.