Capgemini, Higher Apprentice Jorden Allcock
What’s it really like to be… a Capgemini apprentice?
“UNIVERSITY WASN’T FOR ME – THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER”
Capgemini is one of the world’s biggest IT consultancy companies, helping its clients with technology problems and suggesting clever ways they can streamline their systems in future. The work is quite specialist, but the good news is that you don’t need lots of prior experience or knowledge to work there – Capgemini runs a range of apprenticeship schemes for people who don’t have a degree, but love technology and have bags of potential.
So, what’s it like to be a Capgemini apprentice?
After dropping out of university and taking several dead-end jobs, Jorden Allcock, 21, from Manchester, started as a Higher Apprentice in March 2013 – and he hasn’t looked back! He has nine GCSEs plus A levels in maths, physics and computing, and AS-levels in electronics, history and ICT...
Tell us about your job…
“At the moment, I’m working as a Software Engineer as part of the Microsoft team based in Sale. We tailor and maintain software that clients use to run part, or all of, their business.
“The team specialises in providing support for Microsoft Applications which the businesses have bought from us and are now using day-to-day. CapGemini are one of Microsoft’s partners meaning a long-standing tradition of selling and promoting Microsoft’s equipment is in place.
“In a typical day, I get asked to fix technical problems – generally the kind of things that can’t be done with one user over the telephone. For example, it could be that a software package we’ve created for a client crashes, or stops running properly for some reason. Or it may be one of the business’s invoices hasn’t been processed properly and nobody can figure out why. We investigate what’s happened, fix the problem and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We rarely get the same problem twice – which is great because it means no two days are ever the same and I always have to use my brain to figure out what’s happening. There hasn’t been a day since I started here when I haven’t learnt something new.
“Higher Apprentices are well supervised at Capgemini – but that doesn’t mean there’s someone breathing down my neck! We have catch-up meetings every so often to discuss progress and to set targets – and there’s always someone to ask if I have a problem I can’t fix myself. But usually I’m left to my own devices when it comes to planning my day. I was quite surprised at how much autonomy and independence I have as an apprentice at such a big company. It’s nice to feel they trust me to just get on with my work.
“My hours are nine to five, Monday to Friday. Because I really love what I do and want to make the most of this opportunity, I sometimes do extra work in the evenings when I get home – but it’s not compulsory.”
What are the best bits about your job?
“Realising how much I still have to learn! That might sound funny but I find it exciting. I’m naturally inquisitive and love figuring out how things work and fixing application errors all by myself. I also enjoy investigating remote servers, which often means working with several different people sitting in different parts of the office – or even different parts of the country.
“I also love the strong team spirit there is at the Capgemini office – it’s something I haven’t come across in a job before. Everyone is happy to help each other out.”
Did you always want to do this as your job?
“No, because I had no idea it existed! After college I started a degree in electromechanical engineering, but uni wasn’t for me and I dropped out. After that I worked in a supermarket, warehouses and factories – I even tried direct marketing. I’d been so focused on getting to uni, and when that didn’t work out I had no clue what to do next.
“After a year and a half of doing odd jobs, I came across an advert and applied for this apprenticeship at Capgemini, and was lucky enough to be accepted. Now, after passing the initial training that all apprentices go through to get them technically up to scratch, I’m enjoying working in a place where things are constantly moving forward and you have to keep pace.”
What subjects did you love at school?
“Maths and physics. I’m an analytical, methodical thinker. At school, I remember thinking “When am I ever going to use this formula in the real world?” but now I realise why employers value maths and science subjects so much. In those lessons, you’re learning how to think and how to apply methods to problems. I might not use the formulas themselves, but I definitely use the critical thinking that I learned at School.”
And what skills do you need?
“Teamworking and collaborative skills are a must, to build successful relationships with your clients, suppliers and colleagues. You need communications skills too, to articulate ideas in a concise, persuasive way, both in person and in writing. It’s also important to have the analytical and creative ability to come up with innovative, effective solutions. And it’s good to be flexible about where you work, as you may have to travel to offices and client sites across the UK.”
What happens at the end of your apprenticeship?
“That’s the best bit, a Capgemini apprenticeship isn’t just a training programme – it’s a full-time, permanent role from day one! Capgemini views apprenticeships as the beginning of a long-term career – I was reassured to find that out the day I started. Not only that, but you’ll be paid a competitive salary too.
“Plus, if you want a chance to travel, you are working for a global company with offices around the world. I’ve always wanted to live in New York by the time I’m 25. At Capgemini, I have already discovered possible ways to make this a reality – paths to follow and people to speak to. The information is there for me to act on if I want to.
“At the moment I’m giving some thought to what I’ll do next. The managers at Capgemini are always on the lookout for any particular talents you have, and will make suggestions about what kind of role they think you might enjoy next.”
Did you overcome any difficulties to get where you are?
“Yes, the 18 months between leaving uni and starting this apprenticeship weren’t easy. I was having some personal problems and ended up being homeless for three or four months. Getting back on my feet was tough. I slept on friends’ sofas and eventually got back in contact with family I hadn’t spoken to in years – and from there I managed to turn things around.
“Even little things made job-hunting difficult. I didn’t have a suit (which you pretty much need for job interviews), and not having a permanent address made it hard to apply for some jobs. I didn’t have daily internet access either, so I missed out on emails inviting me for interviews.
“Anyone who has been on benefits knows how soul-destroying going to the Job Centre can be, week in week out. Getting rejected – or not hearing anything back – was also demoralising. So I was feeling pretty low when I applied for this apprenticeship and never expected to hear back. I couldn’t believe it when my application was successful.”
What qualifications do you need to be a Capgemini apprentice?
“You can begin a Capgemini apprenticeship either straight from school or college or after you’ve been working for a while. Capgemini also likes to hear from people who started uni but then decided it’s not for them. They really don’t mind – as long as you’re passionate about IT, determined to succeed, and excited about working for one of the world’s largest, most innovative IT services companies.
“If you’re interested in an Advanced Apprenticeship, you’ll need five GCSEs at grades A* to C (or equivalent), including maths and English. Higher grades in STEM subjects (that’s maths, science and ICT) are a bonus too. These results can be actual or predicted grades at the time that you apply.
“For Higher Apprenticeships, you’ll need five GCSEs at grades A* to C (or equivalent), including maths and English – plus three A-levels (actual or predicted grades) at grade C or above, or equivalent (e.g. a National BTEC with at least one distinction). These should include an IT-related subject (e.g. IT, maths or science). Or, as an alternative to A-levels, you may have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship in IT.
“You’ll also need to be able to demonstrate your interest in IT, via a hobby, work experience or personal study – so if you’ve designed a game or website, be sure to let them know!”
What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?
“Look for a career, not just a job. A job will earn you some money, but it may not take you very far in the long term. A career is something you can pursue and develop as you go. The employers who offer you a proper career – not just a job – are the ones to go for. Capgemini actively helps build your skills and develop you as a person, so you can go on to have a long career here if you want to.
“Finally, don’t worry if you decide not to get a degree. If I’d known what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered with university when I left school. It’s not true any more that you need a degree to do well. I’m living proof.”
This amazing insight into Jorden's Apprenticeship experience was written by our friends at PlotrMore Experiences