New partnership between Glasgow University and top IT firm makes learning on the job easy PC

Apprenticeships are a concept not typically associated with our ancient Universities, or our more modern and technologically-advanced industries. 

Yet those worlds are now aligning through the creation of Graduate Apprenticeships - work-based learning degree programmes in disciplines such as software development, data science, and cybersecurity.  

The University of Glasgow and Leidos, a global software development and IT services company with a 200-person site at Skypark in Glasgow, is the latest partnership to form around the creation and delivery of a Graduate Apprenticeship in Software Engineering.

The first employees will begin their studies in September this year, building on a degree framework developed and funded by Skills Development Scotland. Leidos and other partner employers will provide paid apprenticeship positions in software engineering roles along with coaching, mentoring and in-house training. 

The University will provide formal teaching and assessment on a four-year degree programme that will result in a Bachelor of Science with Honours of equivalent standing to the University’s traditional degrees.

Both parties see their partnership and the combined experience that they offer to apprentices as unique and a reflection of shared values.  

Led by Professor Quintin Cutts MBE, an internationally renowned expert in computing science education, and Director of the Centre for Computing Science Education, the University has taken great care to design and develop its Graduate Apprenticeship using research evidence on work-based learning degrees, and by working with employers that are fully committed to supporting apprentices with academic and professional success as well as productivity.

“Glasgow students who study medicine, veterinary science or dentistry have on-the-job training as part of their studies,” Professor Cutts pointed out. “Similarly, our Graduate Apprenticeship offers work-based learning alongside traditional forms of teaching. As a subject coming of age, we believe software engineering deserves to be seen as a professional degree on a par with those courses.” 
Professor Cutts explained: “As a research-intensive university we’ve sought to combine the experience and needs of partner employers assessed through extensive consultation, with evidence gleaned from work-based learning degree providers across Europe and North America, and the research literature on this form of study.  

“Leidos have embraced and fully supported our approach – combining it with their years of experience of working with software engineering apprentices. We have learned a great deal from their experience of recruiting and supporting very early-career software developers and incorporated this into the design of this brand-new degree.

"We’ve also been able to trade knowledge on best practice elsewhere in the world uncovered by our research. We anticipate a long-term collaboration on the ongoing development of this Graduate Apprenticeship degree programme, alongside co-design of our future programmes.”

The University’s computing science degrees offer students a solid grounding in the fundamental principles of software engineering, as well as the ability to think through problems creatively, which makes graduates intellectually flexible and highly sought after by industry.

The inclusion of these same underlying principles in their Graduate Apprenticeship programme has been fully endorsed by the 25 partner employers consulted on the design of the degree.  
Delivered alongside novel new courses such as “How To Learn a Programming Language” - an approach which recognises that apprentices will be working in different companies with different and changing technology stacks, the University fully expects its completing Graduate Apprentices to have stellar career trajectories. 

Considering that Graduate Apprentices will complete their studies with four years of highly valuable work experience and no student debt, this particular route into industry is proving to be very appealing for students who might have had their sights set firmly on the traditional university experience.  
“We’ve retained strong opportunities for our apprentices to tap into that more traditional student experience too”, explains Professor Cutts.  
“With periods of intensive block teaching on campus in the first 18 months of the degree, our apprentices will experience the benefits of student life as well as the world of work and will have unrivalled opportunities to learn from fellow apprentices working for a wide range of employer partners.” 

Professor Cutts points out: “We are working with the Software Development for Business framework created by Skills Development Scotland but we have expanded it to include deeper aspects of software engineering to match with our traditional degree offerings. 

“We think the mix of university and industry learning in the software engineering context sets a new standard for the profession, and we’re keen to partner with more employers before the first apprenticeships kick off in the autumn.” 


Always best to experience IT in reality

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SCREEN TIME: Glasgow University graduate Colin Jack, who now works as a software development manager for Leidos.

A KEY part of the development of the University of Glasgow’s new Graduate Apprenticeship degree has been collaboration with industry. One of the companies who have played an integral role and who will be offering at least two places on the Graduate Apprenticeship programme in its first year is Leidos, who employ 1200 people throughout the UK.

Leidos already have experience with apprenticeships and have had “great success” with their programme which began in 2013. The company send their apprentices to university for further academic study and so were keen to help Glasgow build its Graduate Apprenticeship programme.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic route into the IT industry and offer apprentices a real head start on their career over traditional routes,” said Glasgow University graduate Colin Jack, who now works as a software development manager for Leidos and was able to help advise his alma mater on the formation of this new degree.

“We recognise that one size does not fit all and we have been working with universities alongside other providers to develop new pathways into our industry.

“The University of Glasgow are taking a unique approach to apprenticeships by making use of teaching blocks to provide apprentices with a solid foundation in all the basics. 

“Between teaching blocks, apprentices return to Leidos to see how what they’ve learned applies within an industry context and to bring their fresh perspective to our real world project teams. Apprentices will also have the opportunity to specialise in areas such as Cyber Security and Data Science while partnering on projects with the world class researchers at The University of Glasgow. This approach offers the best of both worlds as apprentices get all the benefits of University while earning a full salary and gaining work experience at the same time.”

The new Graduate Apprenticeship programme has also been welcomed by Alec Harley, Leidos’ Portfolio Director of Mission Systems and member of the Industry Advisory Board for The School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow. “I am a big advocate of this new degree,” he said. 

“You can enter industry by the traditional route by going to university and then getting a job but this ability to merge academic learning and industry learning at same time is a fantastic vehicle to help us and help that generation move forward.

“By the time they finish they will be fully formed individuals and not just know the pure theory as they will have worked in an office environment and delivered on real projects. It also allows us to look at them as individuals and see how they grow over that period.”

“People normally come out of school and go straight into higher education. If they are lucky they will have had a week’s work experience and may not touch on an industrial environment until their third or fourth year and even then it won’t be for long.

“This will allow apprentices to get immersed in the work environment and understand what it means to go 
to work. 

“It is fantastic for us and we have already had great success with our established apprenticeship programme.Glasgow University is a global academic brand and the move to support apprenticeships while integrated into tertiary education is innovative and fully supported by our company.  

He added: “The IT industry has a recruitment challenge, we need more exceptional people to solve really complex problems and apprenticeships provide - an important route to attracting talent that provides a win-win-win for employer, university and employee.”