Apprenticeships in focus

Since 2018, NDL has offered an alternative route into the IT sector – The Digital Apprenticeship Scheme. In partnership with institutions such as Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds Beckett University, the scheme offers a BSc (Hons) degree – as well as a full-time position in Product Development or Consultancy with NDL.

The programme lasts for 4 years, and with 3 of NDL’s Delivery Consultants currently on the scheme – Lizzie Brightwell, Arran Benton and Owen Rayne – now well into their studies, NDL’s Customer Success Manager, Hannah Gilbank, took the opportunity to reflect on the experience with the team below.

So, tell us a little bit about your studies!

Lizzie: I work as a Delivery Consultant in the Delivery Team, while studying for the Digital & Technology Solutions degree at Sheffield Hallam University. The apprenticeship pathway I’m on is tailored to IT Consultants, so I’m learning skills at the university which I get to apply in my role at NDL; it’s a great way to learn while getting job experience straight away. 

Arran: I’m also enrolled in the BSC Digital and Technology Solutions course and have just completed the first year, which I’ve enjoyed. The modules were interesting and have helped me improve certain skills, such as report writing and researching.

Owen: I’ve recently finished my first year of studies at Sheffield Hallam University. The course I’m studying is a BSc in Digital & Technology Solutions. During the 12-week study leave, I completed a range of modules - like Programming and Networking Fundamentals, Cybersecurity, Systems Analysis, Design and Personal Development.

What sparked your interest in studying to work within the IT sector?

Lizzie: When I was furloughed in my previous role last year, I had the opportunity to try some coding - and I absolutely loved it. I enjoy collaborating with others and solving problems, so my role as a Delivery Consultant has turned out to be a great fit, because it involves a bit of everything. It’s also really rewarding to be working with clients in the public sector.

Arran: I’ve always been interested in IT throughout my education, and I continued to pursue this interest for the duration of my time in school, as it was what seemed enjoyable to me. I think going for the job in the IT sector was a natural progression from my interests in school, as well as the fact the jobs in the industry all sounded very interesting to me.

Owen: Since I started college in 2018, I knew I wanted to work in the IT sector due to my enjoyment of studying the subject. I realised working with IT was already a hobby of mine. That motivated me to look for my first job, so I could afford a PC - allowing me to improve my skills and knowledge so I could pursue a career in the industry.

What technical skills are you working on currently, and what projects are you working on in support of the NDL Community?

Lizzie: At the moment, I’m working on a group project with Arran and Owen; we’re developing the ”eForms Showcase' to educate ourselves on FX (NDL’s low-code eForm builder), while creating a production line for efficient eForm creation. We aim to make our resources and processes available to the NDL Community, so that users can experience this efficiency too.

Arran: The skills that I’m currently improving on are mainly related to FX, such as improving my confidence and competency with the software. At the moment, I’m currently on “Project Firefly” which is a form digitisation project using FX – we’re digitising NHS and Local Government forms to be displayed on our website and to customers.

Owen: At the moment, I’m working alongside the other two apprentices on a project to digitise several local government and NHS e-forms with FX. Along with these exemplar forms, we’re going to be creating documents such as UI guides, CSS Stylesheets, Training Guides and more. All of this will be posted on the NDL website for customers to use, helping them to improve their skills and ability when using the software.

Through Project Firefly, I’m looking to demonstrate and evidence my learning and application of JavaScript. Development began in June, so I’m about to start working on this skill. I’m also going to work with another member of the delivery team to put together a module on CSS, to be included in FX training courses. Improving customer skills in CSS will help them to improve the look of their forms at a rapid pace.

What motivates you the most at work?

Lizzie: Right now, I’m loving the learning experience - so any new challenges that come my way are really exciting, which is good because it’s all new to me!

Arran: At work I’m motivated by the desire to create work that makes myself and the users happy. I try to do this by creating work to a good standard - one that reflects well on me, as well as my current skills allow.

Owen: I think learning is what I use to push myself at work. I think about the great opportunity this apprenticeship is and think about what the future may look like for me when I finish it. Although it’s early days, I feel I’ve learnt so much already. I’m excited to learn more and become a more important member of my team.

What has been your favorite part of working with NDL so far, and why?

Lizzie: NDL is really supportive and organised when it comes to personal development and training. It’s nice to feel there is a plan in place with milestones, because it gives you direction and momentum.

Arran: One of my favourite parts about working at NDL so far, is how friendly everyone that I’ve met is - I think that’s allowed me to settle in better than I would have otherwise, and it’s always reassuring that I can contact any team and they’ll be happy to help.

Owen: Definitely Project Firefly. In my previous two jobs, it has been very autocratic but, since we started working on this project, I have felt so free to express my creativity and knowledge in my own way. It also feels really good knowing you’re creating things that are really going to benefit customers.

What skills have you learnt so far, and how are you putting these to good use?

Lizzie: My favourite module at university this term was Cybersecurity, and - although that part of the course has finished now - NDL is supporting my growth in this area by asking me to assist with the company’s Cyber Policies and undertake further training with the Cyber Workgroup – I can’t wait to get started.

Otherwise, I have been focussed on FX so far, so I am getting to know the product well by producing lots of different forms in a variety of styles. We are taking our eForms through the NDL Delivery Lifecycle process, so I’m learning how projects are managed, and how to collaborate successfully within a tech team.

Arran: My programming skills have improved, because one of the modules for the university course was “Programming Fundamentals” - I feel that has helped me to improve my base programming skills, and so has benefitted me when it comes to writing CSS and JavaScript for FX eForms.

Owen: I’ve learnt how to use FX, and I’m still working on this skill through Project Firefly. I’m going to be building eForms that will be published on the NDL website, for customers to leverage. I’ve also learnt how to use CSS, so I can shape those eForms to look professional stylistically.

If you’re interested in a future in tech, make sure to check our current vacancies – we’re always keen to support young talent within the sector. To keep up with the latest NDL and industry news, don’t forget to take a look at our other blogs and media centre.