Belfast Met’s IT apprenticeship programme providing pathway to success in IT sector
Three years ago, Shane Toner had zero ICT qualifications. Yet thanks to Belfast Met’s groundbreaking IT apprenticeship programme, he has become a high performing software developer at leading ICT company Fujitsu – winning a number of awards along the way.
The secret of his success is the renowned Public Private Apprenticeship Scheme, an intensive programme that allows trainees to enter the workplace on day one and ‘earn as they learn’.
The scheme, designed by Belfast Met in partnership with the Department for the Economy and industry to address Northern Ireland’s IT skills gap, pairs students up with companies such as Fujitsu, Capita, the Northern Ireland Civil Service, the PSNI, Dale Farm and Randox Laboratories.
“With the ongoing transformation of digital technology and the benefits it brings across society and the economy, we want applicants who are ready to embrace digital and the opportunities therein,” explains Louise Hull, NI Apprenticeship Programme Manager at Fujitsu.
“We work closely with government and educational providers to ensure apprentices gain the digital acumen and real life experience needed for a career in the ever evolving technology sector while also helping develop IT leaders of the future who understand our business.”
Shane (26), from Limavady, was pondering his next step after studying Physics at Queen’s University Belfast when he spotted an ad for the Apprenticeship Scheme in the Job Centre.
“I had some experience in writing code, but nothing in terms of ICT and the apprenticeship scheme looked like a great way to get a head start in the sector,” he says.
After applying for the Apprenticeship Programme and following a series of aptitude tests Shane was successful in gaining a position with Fujitsu at their North West base.
“On my second day I started the apprenticeship course at Belfast Met. The theoretical course taught in class is aimed at bringing everyone to the same level, working towards the apprenticeship qualifications. ” he says.
“That was a real eye-opener to me, as I did not study IT for GCSE or A-Level. I was aware of programming but the tutors at Belfast Met gave me and the other apprentices a strong grounding in ICT which we were able to build upon practically while working in our respective companies.”
Apprentices study one day a week in Belfast Met while gaining hands-on, paid experience in the workplace during the other four days.
Shane was named ‘IT Apprentice of the Year’ with Belfast Met and has quickly progressed to software developer with Fujitsu. Over the last two years he has won eight internal awards.
“In my team at Fujitsu, we look after different customers applications and keep them running correctly,” he says. “Our activities include applying updates to systems for performance improvement and streamlining the applications. We work with customers to understand their business needs and provide system enhancements to complete their activities more efficiently and effectively.
“Moving from the apprenticeship scheme to software developer has been great and Belfast Met has really helped me with that.”