Accenture & Apprenticeships
As part of our skills development championing, we want to highlight some of the great things that are happening in the North East tech community to develop and nurture new talent. One of which is the brilliant degree apprenticeships offered by some businesses in the region.
So, we caught up with Accenture to talk about theirs and the brilliant ways it helps those that apply.
Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeships at Accenture have been around for a long time but the one specifically concentrating on cyber security has only been live for 5 years.
Accenture are pioneers in the region and the UK when it comes to offering a specific cyber security degree apprenticeship and applications for it have been on a steady incline ever since its introduction.
What is a Degree Apprenticeship?
A degree apprenticeship combines work and study alongside each other. Split into specific days, the week is filled with days at college and days working in industry. Typically, more time will be spent in the office than at college. At Accenture, for instance, it’s four days in the office and one day at college. Degree apprenticeships usually take longer than a full time degree but you come out with lived industry experience as well as a degree itself, and more often than not, there is a job at the end of it too.
Degree apprenticeships help to introduce and develop skills in various disciplines of tech. There are no specialisms at the beginning, with apprentices given maximum exposure to multiple disciplines across a number of departments, helping individual interests to flourish organically.
So what do those on the degree apprenticeship programme at Accenture say about it and do they have any advice for those who may want to follow in their footsteps?
Words from Accenture Apprentices
We spoke to Connor and Kurtis who are on and have graduated from the degree apprenticeship course respectively.
When it came to picking cyber security over software engineering both of them felt that it was where their interests now and in the future lay. Pinpointing the career longevity in the industry, as well as the appealing prospect of being exposed to emerging tech and challenging new threats.
Kurtis studied digital forensics at school and has a family member who is in cyber security so had some level of exposure to the sector. Connor did computer science at A-level and shadowed the cyber security team at Accenture, which is how he found out he loved it.
Kurtis: I looked at bigger businesses first because of the level of exposure you get to different experiences and roles and also have the ability to move about. However, any opportunity is a good opportunity in my opinion. You’re learning and if you’re in a small business, you might not get to know lots of different disciplines but you will be much closer to projects.
Connor: My interest was sparked when Accenture came to talk at my school to raise awareness of the opportunities at the firm.
How does it work and do you need to be technical?
Accenture takes on 20-30 applicants a year and is inundated with applications to its cyber security degree apprenticeship.
The company says a technical knowledge foundation is important but that there are also roles in non-tech areas, like compliance and risk for example, that fall within cyber security, Kurtis started more on the governance side for instance.
So there are many opportunities to work in the industry without the need to be completely technical.
At Accenture, the company encourages apprentices to shadow teams during big projects as part of the programme to ensure exposure to the level of knowledge and skills needed when they graduate.
The degree itself
Connor told us his degree is quite technical but that he also has to do a report alongside it, so other “softer” skills are required.
Describing the degree, he tells us that the first year is all about building software engineering fundamentals before moving to focus more on project management and business resilience in the second year. The third year is more specialised with the dissertation based on the work you’re doing in industry.
Advice for those Applying for a Degree Apprenticeship
Connor’s words of wisdom included:
- Get stuck in as much as possible
- Get as many certifications as you can
- Get the fundamentals under your belt
- Exposure to lots of different areas to identify which you want to do is important
- You don’t need technical ability, you just need show a curiosity to learn
Kurtis’ thoughts on the programme were:
- It’s the best opportunity to earn and learn – there’s only so much you can get from the theory – getting real clients and real experience is invaluable
- You understand the levels of responsibility, managing stakeholders and assessing risk all from learning on the job, which you just don’t get from only studying
- Having a team around during challenging times is really useful
- Working with industry is quite intimidating at first but it’s the best experience to learn and grow
- When interviewing, don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect – they’re not trying to trip you up.
- Breathe and try to relax!
- Don’t just think about what they’re looking for from you but what you bring and what you want to do too.
Benefits to the Business
From an Accenture point of view, they told us that they also get so much out of it. Some of the benefits they listed were as follows:-
- We get a ton of talent
- It’s a brilliant way to bridge the experience gap between learning and doing
- The master’s degree apprenticeship is a fantastic solution to challenges in diversity
- We’re creating super skilled people who continue to push our business forward
Masters Degree Apprenticeship
As well as the undergraduate degree apprenticeship scheme, Accenture offers a Master’s Degree Apprenticeship, which you can apply for having achieved any degree and then transition into software engineering.
Once completed, if you’re interested in cyber security you can pursue routes into the various different teams.
Accenture told us that this course is particularly popular amongst women and is instrumental in increasing diversity in their tech teams. They have had a number of people through the programme including two who began as cleaners in Accenture and approached the team with an interest in software engineering.
So you just don’t know where talent is hiding! The Master’s Degree Apprenticeship is a brilliant way of providing a path into tech.
For us, the main takeaway has been that to be successful on the degree apprenticeship programmes you don’t need any other skills than having a curious mind and a willingness to learn.
For those of you in business who may be interested in taking part in a degree apprenticeship programme, Accenture approached the colleges about conducting their cyber security degree apprenticeships so this may be something to think about if you are wondering how to plug the gap between education and practical skills.
If you know someone who might be interested in either the undergraduate or graduate degree apprenticeship or would like to know how your business could get started with one, contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll happily steer you in the right direction.