Over the last few years the subject of apprenticeships has been regularly popping up in the press and even been a topic of discussion at No. 10. Did you know that the likes of Jamie Oliver, Alexander McQueen, Sir Alex Ferguson and even the King himself (well, the king of rock ‘n’ roll) Elvis Presley started out as apprentices?
I’ve sat down with Naked Element’s very own apprentice Lewis Leeds, to see what he’s learnt over his time as an apprentice in tech.
1. How long have you been with Naked Element?
I’ve been with Naked Element since 18th of August 2015, so almost 10 months.
2. Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
I chose an apprenticeship because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t the most academic person in school and I didn’t feel that university would benefit me. I was always better with a more hands-on approach, learning as I went, and it seemed that an apprenticeship was built around this way of learning.
3. What are some of the most useful skills you’ve learnt since starting your apprentice?
In terms of skills I’ve learnt things across a range of areas. There is the obvious such as learning how to develop software, but there are also the business skills and ‘soft skills’ as they are called. Just being able to talk to clients and prospects and know how to react to certain situations, ones I wouldn’t have been fortunate to have experienced less than a year ago. One of the skills I’ve learnt that has been interesting to play around with is DISC profiling. It allows you to see certain characteristics about people and fit them into a personality category. Something very useful in terms of selling and managing how you sell to someone, but it’s also just a fun thing to do.
4. What has been your favourite project you’ve worked on and why?
My favourite project so far has been creating a time management system. It allows project managers to plan out employee’s weeks and assign them to different projects for a certain amount of time. It also calculates an estimate of the profit the client makes on each project by taking into account the project fee and then subtracting all the employee’s daily rates.
I enjoyed working on this because I got to use multiple programming languages and learnt a lot of lessons along the way, as well as being able to say I completed my first project within 6 months of starting out.
5. What support does Naked Element offer you as part of your apprenticeship?
I’m offered a multitude of support. Paul has been a great mentor and is always willing to help, he’s always suggesting things for me to check out and read. As Naked Element’s Managing Director he isn’t always able to lend a hand as he’s working on projects himself, which are always time consuming, but this gives me a chance to focus on problem solving skills and finding a way around things by myself, so even that is helping me in the long run. He’s always on hand if I get stuck and is happy to explain things to me to help me really understand.
6. Would you recommend an apprenticeship to other young people and why?
It depends on the job you want. Some jobs require you to have degrees and require you to go to university or some kind of higher learning. For the vast majority of jobs, however, an apprenticeship is a great way to get your foot in the door of an industry, gain some excellent skills and first-hand experience in a job you may want to turn into a career. The main reason I would recommend an apprenticeship is for the experience. In software development especially, you need to be able to hit the ground running when you start a job, a task that people graduating university might not be able to complete, so having the practical experience that being an apprentice offers is a huge bonus to have and gives you an advantage over other candidates in such a competitive industry.
7. Where do you see your career in 5 years?
I’m hoping to be in the US in 5 years time, working for a large company over there. I’m not sure where exactly just yet as I try not to plan things too far ahead, but I see myself working and living over there by then.
So what does Paul think?
I also asked Paul how he thinks Lewis has been getting on and why he chose to offer an apprenticeship, “When Matt and I discussed getting an apprentice, we knew it was a huge risk for Naked Element. We’d only worked with experienced software developers before, but we wanted to teach someone who didn’t already have lots of bad habits. Lewis joined Naked Element at a time when Naked Element was going through a fairly significant transition. From the off he’s had a fantastic attitude to working and learning. Lewis is always keen to get involved in every aspect of the business, from software development and hardware setup to administration, networking and sales. Based on our experience with Lewis, Naked Element is looking to take on another apprentice over the coming weeks. I believe that apprentices are an excellent way for the predominantly small tech companies in the TechEast region to grow and a way to help fill the skills gap we have here.”