FAQ

Introduction

5 years ago we set out to address what we saw as the key issues faced by our industry. Our main goals remain the same as outlined at our first meeting:

  • Increase diversity and equality within the industry
  • Secure the local talent pipeline for SMEs and larger organisations
  • Promote best practice and knowledge share among developers

To these ends we continue to focus recruitment among those from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups and run an anonymised selection process based on skills and aptitude rather than academic qualifications. This, coupled with our ‘real experts only’ policy for trainers and extensive support for businesses is proving to be very successful recipe.


Frequently asked Questions

Before Placement

How does the selection process work?

Our selection process is slightly different to most - we select based on aptitude and enthusiasm rather than academic achievement. This being what business and community leaders have told us is most important to them. We refine from around 100 applicants through an anonymous process and invite 30 to a selection day where we further test them for problem solving, logic and communication skills. From these we select the best 12 to come on a three week training course - The Boot-camp

What happens at the pre-placement training boot-camp?

During the boot-camp candidates will build at least two websites, a portfolio blog site where they record a daily log of their learning and a project site where they respond to a brief rather than following a tutorial. It is basically an introduction to site building through the creation of the blog site and then learning about more complex options and functionality with the set project.

Bootcamp is focussed on providing a good foundation of skills so candidates are much less of a resource drain when they enter the workplace.

What code will candidates learn at boot-camp?

During the bootcamp the candidates also learn foundational code. Though most are well versed in html and css already, we use eLearning and tests as well as classroom teaching to make sure everyone has a decent basic level of these as well as a good understanding of open source, content management, deployment, version control, taxonomy etc. Some candidates push further and are able to show capabilities with Javascript, sass and php - the projects have additional deliverables to allow candidates to demonstrate their strengths and also to learn more - one candidate in our Manchester group managed to build two custom Drupal modules in his second week.

Can we come and see for ourselves?

Yes, and please do. We actively encourage all potential placement companies to visit our boot-camps. It is a great opportunity to meet the candidates in a less formal environment to the interviews that follow. It is also a chance to tell the candidates a bit about your company and introduce your team to them.

Interview and Placement

Who arranges the interviews?

We are happy to assist you in arranging interviews - generally you will give us a list of candidates and available times and we’ll do the rest. If you would like to run a second interview process, we can help with that also. NB: All interviews will need be conducted in the four weeks following the pre-apprenticeship training boot-camp.

What contract should we provide?

Your standard full-time contract should be fine - generally we suggest adding additional clauses to outline the need for additional learning - 20% of apprentice work time. It is also advisable to make it a 18 month fixed term contract.

What support is available for business?

As well as help with arranging interviews we will visit your place of work to assist with onboarding and induction, We offer free consultancy, advice and support to help you and your team get the most out of hiring an apprentice. We also have a large and active national network of other teams and businesses who have had or have apprentices on our scheme.

During Apprenticeship

What training do the apprentices get first?

The first few training sessions are focussed on providing the candidates with billable skills as quickly as possible - this is not just to benefit the business in financial terms but also we have found that apprentices learn so much more quickly when tasked with ‘actual work’. In most cases our apprentices are producing billable work within weeks and most are more than paying their way within 3 months. By 6 months most will have received a pay increase in line with their billable output.

How often is group training?

Our group training is one full day, twice a month for 14 months.

What does the group training involve?

During this training we cover a range of Practical Skills, like deployment, command line and version control; Fundamental Understandings, like agile process, object orientation, code standards and accessibility; and Core Skills, like estimation, prioritisation, planning, communication. Full scope of these can be seen on our ‘living curriculum’ Trello board. On top of the main training days there will be field trips with the other regional groups to meet-ups, camps and, our own Hackathon where teams from all over the UK compete.

How does this help our apprentice?

Our main aim is to cultivate the main skill necessary to become a really good developer - the ability to self learn. To that end each candidate will choose a project that they will develop over the year from discovery and planning through to iterative development and deployment. This project can be absolutely anything, though we will advise on suitability - it needs to be complex enough to be interesting and generate learning experiences and challenges but also achievable in the timeframe. Previous and current examples include 18th Carlisle Scouts site with varying levels of security access, user submitted recipe collections, Enfield town Residents Association, Gaming reviews, Cosplay tutorials and news and a service for alerting you for when your car needs an MOT or Tax.

Can we see a full curriculum?

Yes, our ‘living curriculum’ is open source. We hold it on Trello as, due to the nature of our industry, it needs to be updated regularly. We take feedback from employers, mentors, business and community leaders as well as from the apprentices themselves to continually re-evaluate and refine what is being taught.

https://trello.com/b/xJOFSbww/apprenticeship-course-content-baseline

Does everybody learn the same things?

Yes and no - there is a base level that everybody achieves but all candidates also have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). By year end everyone has a good level of competency in HTML, CSS, SASS, JS, PHP. On top of this baseline of competency, every candidate is required to take on at least one additional specialty such as Drupal, Wordpress, Magento, Laravel, Full Stack JavaScript, Front end and UX…

Every candidate will have an ILP, which we will support through our group training and one to one coaching. Specialities chosen should be of direct benefit to both the business and the apprentice.

End of Apprenticeship

End Point Assessment

After 14 months of training there will be an additional 4 months of supported learning. During this time the apprentice will be organising their portfolio of work and completing knowledge modules one from City & Guilds and one Industry Recognised certification such as zend, Acquia Drupal or MCE.

Also during this time there will be a synoptic assessment - a short project completed in controlled conditions. This will take 5 days spread over 3 weeks.

The end point assessor will then look at the portfolio of work supplied by the apprentice. All candidates are required to build and keep a blog of their learning to serve as a record for the end point assessor and also as a learning tool and reference point for themselves.

What qualification does an apprentice achieve?

The qualification is ‘Software Developer Level 4’ - A brand new qualification and part of the new Government Apprenticeship Standards. Our scheme fed into the creation of these new standards giving a focus on industry and business needs and a flexibility that s essential in our ever changing industry.

For the Business

What are the costs for our business?

Wages

Employer pays apprentice wage - minimum is £3.30ph but everyone we work with pays £5 or more at the outset - this is about £9k pa.

Training

For SMEs the training is 90% - 100% funded by the government so cost to business is just £109 a month (max).

For levy-paying businesses the cost is £14,400 per apprentice in most cases (£18,000 if under 18).

This covers the two days per month group training, the pre-apprenticeship training, additional field trips to camps, conferences and meetups and hopefully a hackathon too. It also funds the end point assessment, additional certification, and assessments in the workplace (every 6 -8 weeks).

What are the rules for employers?

The employer gives over 20% of the apprentice’s work time for personal and professional development. We will support this by setting projects and e-learning tasks to be completed by the apprentice during this time. We use Treehouse as our partner to deliver custom tracks to learn code to a good standard in a short space of time.

Can we add existing staff?

It’s easy to add members of your existing staff to our gov subsidised training too. They will receive the same government support for funding their training as long as they do not already hold an equivalent or higher level qualification in a similar field. For example someone with a Geography degree will be funded but not someone with an HND in web development would likely not. We can however, bring individual cases to the attention of the ESFA for decision.

What skill level will the apprentice have on day one?

All are well versed in HTML and CSS and most have additional experience with JavaScript and php. Our pre-apprenticeship training is focussed on content management with Wordpress and Drupal but also includes deployment and version control with Git as well as foundational code skills.

Miscellaneous

What are “Apprenticeship Standards”

The Apprenticeship Standards are a new qualifications standards specifically for apprenticeships. We participated in the ‘Trailblazer’ initiative by the Tech Partnership actively contributing to the creation of these new standards through our work.

We use the Software Developer (Level 4) standard.

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0113 460 1024
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