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Shana, Software Developer apprentice at HMRC: earning while learning

It's National Apprenticeship Week and International Women’s Day. Shana Austin explains what it’s like to be a Software Developer apprentice on the Digital, Data and Technology Fast Track.

Hi. I've just finished my first year as a Fast Track apprentice with HMRC, and want to tell you how unexpected and fulfilling it's been.

Digital, Data and Technology Fast Track apprentice Shana Austin

‘University didn’t feel right for me’

I was half-way through a computing degree and balancing a part-time retail job when I realised that studying and then working separately didn’t feel rewarding. It also didn’t leave a lot of time for extracurricular activities.

Parents, teachers and peers can make young people feel that university is the only "right" path to a good career, which can be really disheartening if university is not right for you.

‘Work and study at the same time’

It was really important to me that I could work and study at the same time. I wanted to be responsible for my future prospects and give myself the best start I could.

When I found out that there were apprenticeships which taught you digital specialist and generalist skills, as well as pay you a wage, I was sold.

The Fast Track scheme offered the highest salary I had seen for an apprenticeship. It was higher than what I would have been offered post-graduation for the same junior-developer role within a company! I suspended my studies at university and applied. This was an opportunity to learn how to program within a large organisation, whilst working on projects that benefit the whole country.

‘No support like it’

The Civil Service offers security. Once you're in, there's no long-term support like it. You really feel like your department wants you to grow and succeed. I've had the opportunity to participate in career fairs, represent my department at events like the CITF Gender Balance, Women Who Code, and travel from Newcastle to London to other departments and centres.

I was asked about my previous coding experience, and my team helped me quickly learn the current technologies and practices. Dependant on your experience, you are either trained as a specialist in your field from scratch, or get to build on the skills you already have. Nothing gets wasted, and every opinion and background is valued.

Shana Austin talking to her colleagues

How I’ve found the apprenticeship

The Fast Track scheme is exciting. You're challenged from day one, and treated like a valuable team member - regardless of your starting ability. Every apprentice gets opportunities and the training they need to achieve to the best of their ability.

After a few weeks or months, you start seeing the bigger picture on policies and huge projects that benefit our society. You feel like your contributions as you are learning on the job actually matter, and are useful.

There's the opportunity to work with your department during Hackathon days and other cross-government department events, which I’ve really enjoyed.

What surprised me about working in government

The Civil Service was completely unknown to me, I knew that it kept the country running smoothly but it sounded like stuffy offices, stacks of papers and strict attitudes. My experience couldn't be further from this. Everyone worked in a progressive way, welcoming new ways of thinking.

Your team,  department, network across government - they all value your enthusiasm and do everything they can to help you succeed. If you're willing to study hard and apply yourself to challenges, you're encouraged by everyone, regardless if you talk with them every day at the office, only see them once in a monthly cross-centre meeting or only see them in inter-department calls twice or three times a year. The support is continuous, and inclusive for everybody.

I began on the Digital and Technology Fast Track. It's where I know I can make something of myself, something worthwhile for digital.

Apply for the Digital, Data and Technology Fast Track apprenticeship until May.

Follow @digicareersgov for updates on our talent programmes and careers.

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