1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
Part of the role is working on projects for a particular customer, or internal innovation based projects. The other part is studying at the University for one day a week. I develop software as part of a team and day to day we will work on particular tasks that we have set out to complete in the next few weeks. During this we have regular short informal team meetings to discuss our progress as well as any issues we have.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I have developed a lot of focused software skills involving Python, C#, Java, Docker, Linux, Git, Elastic, Apache Pulsar, and Apache Kafka. This has also come with learning lots of non-technical but still important skills such as software design and software testing. The University course has taught me skills such as project management, cyber security, risk management, software testing, responsible management practices, and information systems. A good mix of technical and non-technical are learned and developed throughout the course.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I enjoy it very much, the university course is interesting and gives you more than just general software development. Winchester itself is a great university, the lecturers are all very well knowledgeable and friendly, the site is excellent and all the equipment is modern, and being with other apprentices from other companies means you are alongside like-minded people. The work culture at Roke is great, it's a relaxing place to work and all of the employees are friendly and welcoming.
4. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The organisation of the course is good. There is an induction and training programme for the first few months and after that you join a team to work on a project based on your skills. The project structure will of course vary from project to project but they all follow the same basic structure of reporting to a project manager.
I have regular meetings with workplace mentors and line managers to bring up any issues. There are also occasional meetings between yourself, your workplace mentor, and the course leader at university. The university course itself is structured into four modules per semester and content is delivered in a week-by-week basis.
5. How much support do you receive from your employer?
I have the opportunity to receive lots of support from my employer through various support channels depending on what I need. I can talk to the project team or the project manager for support with actual development work. If I need support other than that, I can contact my line manager, my practice area lead, my workplace mentor or the HR team. What I like about these support channels is that you are treated and respected in the same way as any other employee, not as someone who might have less technical knowledge just because they are an apprentice.
6. How much support do you receive from your training provider when working towards your qualifications?
As only one day a week is spent actually on the university site, I can email my module tutors any time to ask questions about the module and get guidance for any problems from them. This also makes getting support very accessible. I get regular feedback from them from non-graded assessments so I can see any progress I am making, and feedback from them for each assessment at the end of the module. This range of support makes the course much more enjoyable.
7. How well do you feel that your qualification (through your training provider) helps you to perform better in your role?
Although my work role has taught me lots of technical skills, the university course has taught me many important non-technical skills that are needed for my work role. A lot of these skills are expected to be had for my role, so learning them on the course and then being able to apply them in my role is a great way to both learn and practice that skill. These skills have also helped me to learn more about the industry I work in as a whole.
8. Are there extra-curricular activities to get involved in at your work? (For example, any social activities, sports teams, or even professional networking events.)
Roke's Sports and Social club has a wide range of interesting employee-run social clubs and events that regularly take place, such as astronomy, amateur radio, board games, cycling, tennis, water sports, cricket, go-karting, and photography clubs. We also have the Data Science and Cyber Clubs that are run on a week-by-week basis where fellow employees can present on a topic or provide interactive workshops.
Roke also has a pavilion (with a bar, games room, and an open indoor space for organising activities); tennis courts; and access to the nearby River Test with fishing rights.
We have an end-of-year party every year, and for apprentices/graduates we have a once-per-year networking event with apprentices/graduates from other areas of the Chemring Group.
9a. Would you recommend Roke to a friend?
Roke is a great company with a unique, relaxed culture that emphasises innovation and the work teams and individuals do. I have met some fantastic people working here and you can always expect to be supported by everyone. The University course alongside is very well structured and Winchester is a great place to learn. The fact that you are in classes with other apprentices from different organisations instead of full-time students helps the course feel more welcoming as you get to know everyone. Overall I would highly recommend this course to anyone looking for an apprenticeship.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Roke?
The application process is straightforward, and there are assessment days that involve both interviews and team based activities. The initial learning workshops for the first few months give you the basic skills, but it is worth taking every opportunity to learn other skills, as this will expand the range of projects you can work on. If there is one thing I would have liked to have been told before starting the course, it would have been about the structure of the university course (the fact it is one day a week, and is quite a busy day as a result).