Apprenticeships

Hi all. A newbie here.
I am considering a few apprenticeships through Makers and other companies to make a break into software testing/data science. You come out with a Level 4 Software Testing/ Level 4 Data Science after 18-21 months of training and placement in a tech company.
My question: what seniority/experience level is a Level 4? What kinds of job prospect can I expect from this? is it worth the 1.5-2 years of minimum pay, or is it better to take a course to achieve the same level of certification?

Thank you in advanced!
Annie

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In the US the only time similar levels are used in a remotely standardized/consistent way is when you are working for the government. Outside of government contracts, terms like that don’t mean much because different companies can call their positions whatever they want and have as many “levels” as they like.

I’m not in the UK so I don’t have context for this, but it appears that (in England specifically) they recently began rolling out something called “T Levels”. This government document has an overview and several links that might be more helpful. If this is the “level” that the program you’re interested in is talking about, then the program hasn’t really been around long enough for people to be able to compare it to a more traditional way of starting your career. According to that document, a T Level is expected to take 2 years to complete and the program only began in 2022.

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Apprenticeships are kinda normal in the UK, iirc around 10% of the workforce (overall, across entire workforce) is via them (much higher in some areas). Government has been pushing pretty hard to increase involvement/options so there are alternatives to other HE paths. Outcome in terms of getting a job is :+1:, figures in high 90%-ish.

Qualification is going to be equivalent of a college-level course, so that on its own wouldn’t mean a lot w/r/t software jobs. However it’s not on it’s own, it’s vocational, so can mean quite a lot in an industry that prizes experience. As it is, most apprentices get jobs at the places they apprentice anyway, so most often moot point.

Also note that generally the institution that is acting as arbiter for the educational part will offer an extra year or two on top to boost the qualification to being equivalent to a bachelor’s level degree.

Similar craic to any HE: if you can afford it and you take full advantage yes it will be worth it. If you’re 16, 17, 18, that’s the ages where it makes most sense, but if you can work within the stipend it pays then doesn’t really matter (I have a friend in his 30s who’s apprenticing at a division of HMRC and that’s working pretty well for him, and he’s guaranteed a job at the end). Issue is going to be that

  • pay is very low, but
  • in exchange you get a qualification, so unlike uni you don’t pay for that (you get paid to get it), and
  • generally transport/food for getting to work/eating at work is all paid for, but
  • equally you don’t get access to the large loans available to uni students, and
  • because you’re working + studying, difficult to do a part time job on top (not impossible though, and not that much different to uni)

Minor, but from experience some people will look down on qualifications acquired vocationally vs a CS degree, but hey ho that’s life

As things stand, it’s a good deal if you’re able to live on the wage. Last job the senior engineer and CTO were both formerly apprentices, as was one of the other engineers (came from testing background), and we had an apprentice who was just completing his third year when I left. Job previous we had a load of apprentices, but they were all testers, which I’m not sure is as good a path (people tend to get stuck in it, and wages are much lower until you get to running pen/automation test stuff for an org). I’ve got a friend who runs a company that places apprentices as well, different sector but market and prospects seem to be fairly good overall atm (albeit I’m only getting second hand info there).

Note of caution that need to be careful when looking at who is running the apprenticeship scheme. The problem afaics with the push by the government is that there are now a lot of companies running the schemes, placing apprentices. It is regulated, but I don’t know how well regulated it is. The actual qualifications are almost 100% via actual colleges (some universities as well, but afaik just for awarding the top-up part), so teaching quality is going to be variable there as well, but is fairly easy to find out.