#NAW2022 Apprenticeship Case Study: Finley Walker, L4 Software Tester Apprentice Alumni at Renishaw
With National Apprenticeship Week in full swing, we’ve caught up with Finley Walker, our first level 4 Software Tester apprentice to have graduated with a distinction.
Talking to Finley once again reminds us why we are so passionate about our apprenticeship programmes and how proud we are of our apprentices and their achievements. Finley told us about his thinking behind choosing an apprenticeship vs. university, his days as an apprentice with Renishaw, and his professional life since graduation.
Finley, why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
Originally, I applied to four universities and had two unconditional offers. Then I went and looked at the finances and how much work experience I would have had at the end of my university years and decided against it. I realised that an apprenticeship will allow me to have the same qualification and zero debt - it was a no-brainer. Plus, one of my hobbies is cars. I’d rather go in a debt over a car of my dreams! I am very happy with what I’ve done.
How did you find your employer?
Initially I applied to do a cyber security apprenticeship at GC. I had a few interviews through the College, and then they asked me if I wanted to apply for a Software Tester position with Renishaw. I looked at the job description on the company’s website, went for an interview and this is how I ended up being a Software Tester.
How did you combine working and studying during your apprenticeship?
The big thing at Renishaw is that they treat you as in normal employee and expect you to do everything as any other member of staff, which means I was given a lot more responsibility than some of the other apprentices I've been speaking to. To help me plan my studies, they gave me the whole 8 hours on Tuesdays to do anything related to Gloucestershire College.
I work about 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday, but on Friday I usually finish at 2pm, so it would give me some extra time to do college work. I would normally do it from the office and if there was anything I needed help with, I’d always get it from the Renishaw team.
My family was also very supportive and helped a lot with planning my time. This is how I did it, and it all worked well.
What did you enjoy the most about your apprenticeship?
One of the really good things about apprenticeships is networking. I got to go to different departments in the company, got to meet a bunch of different people, including other apprentices at GC. The other thing was the actual job itself. As a Software Tester, I get to break software, so going to a developer with solid steps to reproduce and showing them how I broke it and them looking at me and going: “I didn’t even consider that”. Going a step above of what was expected of me and seeing people’s reaction was my favourite thing.
What have you been up to since completing your apprenticeship?
Now that I have completed my apprenticeship, Renishaw have kept me on and I've moved teams. I am now working on R&D projects, and it’s been a lot of fun as I have bigger responsibilities and get to do more interesting projects. I still have a lot of support but more independence to do my job.
What are your future plans?
I'm going to continue with Renishaw because they are an excellent employer and they care about their staff. Also, the job has been a lot of fun, as it involves testing software that controls massive robots. It’s quite different to every other job I’ve seen.
If there was an opportunity for me to do a degree in software testing, I would have taken it too.
How tech-savvy do you need to be for a career in IT?
With my workplace, there are all sorts of people. You get people who are very technically minded and love computers, but you also get people who might not be as technically minded as a software tester; it can be advantageous, because they may pick up stuff I might miss. So just because your background isn’t technical, it doesn't mean that you will be at a disadvantage. It gives you a different viewpoint, and that's what you need in a good team.
What advice can you give to anyone considering a career in tech?
If you haven’t got much experience with technology, but you are interested in a career in IT, there are a lot of free courses online that you can take to help you build up your knowledge.
Cheltenham is one of the technical powerhouses in the country, and GC has a lot of connections to companies in cyber in Gloucestershire, so it’s a good places to start. GC’s classrooms have powerful PCs and all the equipment you need. I know that GC has been investing a lot of money into their IT and Cyber programmes and resources and it’s really good.
Is an apprenticeship a good way into an industry?
Yes it is. Although apprentices work hard (and in my opinion, sometimes harder than university students), they have a massive headstart over the university graduates because of the work experience element. For example, a degree apprentice will come out with 4 years of great work experience where most recruiting companies require the minimum of 3. University students will have the same qualifications but their work experience will be much less. It makes it so much easier to secure a job. Not to mention, that an apprenticeship helps to save money and offers a more financially stable future.
We congratulate Finley on completing his Software Tester apprenticeship with distinction and wish him all the best in his professional journey.
To find out more about GC’s apprenticeships in IT & cybersecurity visit: https://www.gloscol.ac.uk/campaigns/tech-talent/