My time on the Crunch degree apprenticeship scheme

I began working as an apprentice in the Engineering department at Crunch in September 2017 and initially I was really nervous to go straight from A-Levels to this brand new four-year degree apprenticeship scheme. This would see me working in industry four days a week and attending the University of Chichester one day a week to study for a degree in computing.

I was also excited to have the opportunity to develop myself as an individual by getting involved with real clients and real deadlines as well as starting my career as a Software Engineer. So far every day at Crunch has brought a new and interesting challenge, which is ultimately what makes this role engaging and enjoyable.

What is a degree apprenticeship?

A degree apprenticeship is a path to completing higher education set up by the Government. A degree apprentice is hired by a company to gain invaluable hands-on experience in the workplace whilst studying for a degree at a specific university. This is a brand new scheme that offers many benefits:

  • Four years of real-world experience working for a company
  • Get paid a decent salary to avoid the debt that many students face, which includes not having to pay for any tuition fees for the university course
  • A healthy balance between studying for a degree as well as working in a company environment
  • The option to try out different roles to find out which is the best fit

My time at Crunch so far

Starting at Crunch was very rewarding for me personally. I was one of two apprentices starting at the same time, and we were the first ever engineering apprentices to work at Crunch.

So that we experienced the various roles available within the Engineering department before being asked to choose a specialism, Crunch setup a rotation system that allowed us to trial a different role every two months.

My first two-month placement was in the Application Support team, which was an ideal introduction to the company, our products, our Clients and what’s important to them, and how the company operates.

I then progressed to my second placement — working as a back-end developer and learning Java and Spring Boot microservices. This role was profoundly technical and challenging, but I enjoyed the proactive and cohesive environment that I got to experience every day, and the ability to learn so many new things in such a short time period. Within this role, I began to develop my understanding with technologies and concepts I never believed I would experience, as well as completing specific tasks that were set for me. This was very rewarding.

Within the same team, I transitioned into front-end development. I was able to utilise some of the skills I had already learnt from my past placements and studies, as well as learn new technologies such as React.js.

As part of the placement I developed a great interest in the React.js framework and I now use my free time to learn, develop and create simple React.js solutions. It will certainly benefit me as an individual, but it will also aid me in creating new solutions for the future within the framework that Crunch uses.

My final placement was testing, which I found to be a great way to end the eight month insight into how Crunch operates. During this period, I was able to develop my understanding of how software should be tested and the processes we follow at Crunch to deliver quality to our Clients.

I enjoyed the responsibility that came with this position as I was constantly working with developers to ensure that the development and delivery of new features were meeting the expectations our Clients have, and ultimately providing a simple yet effective experience.

When I started my apprenticeship with Crunch, I had very little experience of software development, so they provided me with a mentor, Carlos, who is constantly supporting me with technical learning and general progression within the company. Carlos has given me a great insight into how rotating across different departments will help me understand which role is best suited to me in the longer term.

So far, I’ve found that having a mentor is a key element to ensure that you’re gaining feedback from an experienced member of the team, as well as having someone you can reach out to if you are struggling in a particular area.

Although I started with very little technical knowledge, the environment at Crunch gave me the breathing room I needed to tackle my fear of technical jargon and apply my passion for technology in my everyday learning. My colleagues have been friendly, helpful and above all else approachable which reassures me that I can look to anyone in order to achieve mutual goals.

Experiencing four different roles in my short time at Crunch, has helped me come to a decision about what career I’d enjoy the most and could pursue for many years. I’ve decided to pursue a career as a front-end developer.

I’m looking forward to the future challenges that I’ll encounter, the new ideas that will be discovered and the never-ending enjoyment of working collectively in a team, for the benefit of our Clients. Above all else, I’d strongly recommend the degree apprenticeship programme to anyone who wants the variety of studying and working combined with being debt-free!

Further reading:

Written by Matt Kissell, Degree Apprentice at Crunch, who works four days a week whilst also studying at The University of Chichester. In his spare time, he likes to research and keep informed about the latest technological developments as well as participating in numerous county badminton leagues.

Find out more about the Technology team at Crunch and our current opportunities here.