Software apprentice star shining at Shrewsbury firm Shoothill

During National Apprentice Week 2021, we caught up with Gabriel Brown, Junior Apprentice Software Developer at Shoothill to get his reaction to being awarded Intequal’s Software Developer Apprentice of the Year 2021 and to learn more about his apprenticeship journey.

www.shoothill.com

Why did you choose an IT apprenticeship?

Gabe told us, “After school, I was studying maths, computer science and electronics at sixth form college but I felt that the computer science being taught was irrelevant to the areas I was interested in and very basic. I had taught myself a lot of coding already so decided to drop out of college and look for an opportunity to apply my knowledge in a practical sense. I wanted to work on real-life scenarios as I learn better through doing activities.”

We also spoke to Rod Plummer (Managing Director) and Gabe’s colleague Ryan Lloyd, Digital Marketing Executive (also currently an apprentice) to find out why hiring and training apprentices is making a positive impact on talent development and business goals.

How Gabe is making an impact

Rod told us, “Gabe joined Shoothill (www.shoothill.com) in August 2019 as an ‘junior apprentice software developer’ and despite being only 17 years old, right from the start, he has shown immense skill, ability and above all a willingness for hard work.” 

“Shoothill is a custom software developer and as such, we build specialised business software systems for a myriad of businesses and industries ranging from building firms, online newspapers, sock manufacturers to billing systems for large water companies in the UK, as well as flood insurance firms in the USA. This means that our development team work on many projects at the same time, either writing new code, or supporting, improving or maintaining our customer’s business systems.” 

“From day one, we threw Gabriel ‘in at the deep end’ working on our projects with the rest of the development team. We have never looked on him as ‘just an apprentice’, in our eyes he joined us as a programmer from day one and he has become an integral member of our staff and to date, has already worked on over 20 different projects.” 

Gabe said, “After college, it took a while to get used to coming into the office and working with other people on big projects as I had no understanding at the time of the scale involved and how everything worked in the project. Everyone was supportive and always made sure I had time for my studies even if we were busy. Since lockdown I have worked from home but still have the same kind of support and enjoy focussing on the tasks I have to solve.”

 What was Intequal’s role in supporting your apprenticeship?

Gabe told us “Jahan, my Pathway Planner/Trainer was brilliant, helping me with my studies and identifying what I needed to improve on. The online courses covered the same topics I am working with and use the same Microsoft technologies I do at work. Learning the theory helped with the practical tasks I was given by project managers. I often need to swap between projects quickly within my daily tasks, so I must be able to adapt. My role involved pretty much coding and database work – thinking about how data is stored and structured, creating the data structures on a database working with the code to make that data capture flow happen for the client.”

 Intequal’s Jahan Khalique gave us his thoughts about Gabe, “Gabriel was a strong candidate for Apprentice of the Year – he produced strong, well structured, well written portfolio reports, passed his knowledge modules first time round, contributed to many projects at work, and despite undertaking this work and studies largely throughout the past year’s Covid restrictions and remote working he is very productive. Gabe is a confident, articulate young man who has become a technically competent software developer recently achieving a Distinction on completion of his apprenticeship programme and now a worthy winner of his Intequal award for his stellar achievements too.”

Rod added his thoughts that, “It is clear Jahan really cares about Gabe as a person, helping him to succeed.”

Why Gabe deserves this award?

Rod told us, “Gabriel is respected by all of us including Erik Nodland (our Chief Technical Officer) for his deep knowledge and understanding of coding, his easy ability to work with developers (who in some cases are three times his age), and his eagerness at all times to always ‘go the extra mile’ in everything he has ever undertaken for us. Gabe being awarded this accolade is justified because in all our opinions here at Shoothill he really has earned it.  Put simply, I cannot think how Gabriel could have performed any better than he has, and he really is genuinely outstanding.

What would you tell your 17yr old self about your career choice?

Gabe told us, “Apprenticeships are a good way to go as you get the real experience of working on a real project as well as the theory. It is valuable for employers too that you gain this experience. I can learn quickly if I just get in and work on something. With support from my company, I am now looking to take my studies on to degree level and continuing to gain more experience using my programming skills to problem solve on customer projects at work”.

Why do apprenticeships work for careers in tech?

Rod added, “To get into the software industry you do tend to need qualifications to evidence a person has the skills to do the job as well as the hands-on experience. However, with technology changing so quickly it is also important to get working on real projects straightaway. On the internet 3 months is a year and college and university curriculums can get behind very quickly. Covid-19 has exacerbated this already rapid change profoundly as businesses race to adapt. We offer our apprentices the chance to gain experience, get trained on the latest tech, earn money not debt and in five years have their degree. It’s a win win and we are pleased we can provide both the experience and the qualifications whatever our apprentices future career choices.

What would your advice be to a company looking to hire an apprentice?

Rod told us, “You have got to interview candidates as rigorously as you can. Personally, after looking at the quals and CV etc but I mostly look at someone’s overall attitude, whether I can work with them, are they going to fit in to the company culture and with colleagues and will they like what we do?”

“Our business like any, needs young blood and we hope that time taken to educate, and train means our apprentices will be loyal and help take the business into the future. It really is a win win if you get it right. We’ve had a very good experience with Intequal’s training programmes, Ryan is the third apprentice we have put through these programmes.”

“Our business like any needs young blood and we hope that time taken to educate, and train means our apprentices will be loyal and help take the business into the future. It really is a win win if you get it right. We’ve had a very good experience with Intequal’s training programmes, Ryan is the third apprentice we have put through these programmes.”

Rod Plummer

Rod Plummer (Managing Director) , Shoothill