In this case study we hear from Thomas Jamieson from one of our key employer partners, Leonardo. Thomas is a 3rd year student on our Software Development for Business GA programme.  We also hear from Thomas’ employer Leonardo.

Thomas' Story

Please explain how you found the Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity and give some background to what you were doing before the opportunity came up?

I heard about graduate apprenticeships while at school and decided to learn more about them. I first came across the Leonardo job listing on apprenticeships.scot and began to wonder which was the best option for me. Ultimately, I felt that the benefits of the Graduate Apprenticeship outweighed those of a full-time degree.

What were the benefits of Graduate Apprenticeship programme that attracted you the most?

For me, the main benefits are:

  • Getting a degree whilst also gaining real-world hands-on experience working in a software role with other software engineers.
  • Gaining a head start in my career path after finishing my degree because of the experience.
  • Being paid whilst also attending university.

What’s your current role at Leonardo?

My current title is Software Engineering Graduate Apprentice. In my current role, I work within a software development team to design, implement, and test software.

How have you found the challenge of combining work with studying towards a degree?

At certain points, it has been challenging to balance work and university studies, particularly when there have been several university coursework deadlines at the same time. My work experience has provided me with extra knowledge that I may not have learned at university. One of the most important skills I have gained is time management, as it has allowed me to manage multiple deadlines effectively.

What is your proudest achievement to date in your role and can you explain how this impacted on your working environment and or helped deliver results on behalf of your organisation?

I believe my proudest achievement has been the growth of my skills and confidence, across successive years of study and work projects, represented in the quality of work I am now able to deliver for my current workplace project for one of my university courses.

While it isn’t finished yet, I feel that I am producing a better quality of work for the project, as I am using the knowledge that I have gained at work on the job in addition to my university studies. If I compare this project to my previous year’s work, I feel that it has helped to demonstrate that I have improved my skills and confidence when producing software.

To share a bit more detail, my current university project involves working on a lot of different areas within software development, including:

  • Producing requirements for the software
  • Creating designs based on these requirements
  • Implementing the designs
  • Testing the implementation
  • Writing comprehensive documentation
  • Ensuring the software is well written
  • Implementing a well-designed user interface

This ensures that I am improving my knowledge across large areas of the software development process, allowing me to demonstrate this within various areas of the project.

As I have completed an increasing number of projects at university over the years, I have been able to take this experience and apply it to my work activities. This has included improving the way I design and implement my code and the level of detail I now include in requirements.

When I compare previous projects to my current work, I can see how much I have improved as a software engineer, not just in terms of my approach but also in relation to the actual quality of the software itself. I also feel that this project has made me more confident when working on more complex software, and that I can take on more challenging work in comparison to previous years.

What are your future career hopes and goals on completion of the Graduate Apprenticeship?

After my degree, I plan to continue to improve my software skills and establish myself as an experienced and knowledgeable team member. I feel my graduate apprenticeship is better for me than a traditional career route as without it, I would not have had much, if any, real world experience of a software job.

Can you outline what support and/or encouragement your employer has given you in your GA journey?

My employer has supported me in a number of ways, such as

  • Dedicated study days to provide extra time to go over my university work outside lecture times.
  • Frequent meetings to detail my progress and outline any concerns.
  • Helpful feedback on how my studies are progressing.
  • Support is always available outside of the above as well, if any other situations arise.
  • Friendly and supportive colleagues.

Please give a quote to sum up your overall experience of the Graduate Apprenticeship programme:

While it can be challenging at times, I feel that a Graduate Apprenticeship is a valuable option to both further your education and get your foot in the door of your future career.

Graduate Apprentice Employer - Leonardo

Can you provide some background to Leonardo?

With Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in Innovation and International Trade, Leonardo’s Edinburgh site employs over 2000 highly skilled employees. Originally built in 1943, the site has a rich heritage of innovation, and today it produces world leading aerospace technology, including CAPTOR radar for the Typhoon, the Osprey radar for Norway’s all-weather search and rescue helicopters (NAWSARH), and the Seaspray Radar for the US Coast Guard.

Leonardo works closely with the UK Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and MBDA as ‘Team Tempest’ to provide the technologies, knowledge, skills and expertise to develop a Next Generation Combat Air System capable of operating in the 2040+ environment.

Our Company is one of the UK's leading aerospace companies and one of biggest suppliers of defence and security equipment to the UK MoD, making a significant contribution to the UK economy with revenues of over £2bn, around 50% of which are in export. Leonardo offers job opportunities across the UK covering a variety of job roles at all levels – from interns and apprentices to highly qualified professionals – including engineers, cyber security experts, programme and project managers, business analysts and many more.

We have over 500 young people on our training programmes, including graduate schemes, apprenticeships and industrial placements. We are one of the largest employers of engineering apprentices, providing the opportunity to gain qualifications through on-the-job training. Leonardo's award-winning graduate programme develops promising young graduates into engineers and business professionals of the future.

Awards include Gold and Silver level accreditations by Investors in People, covering Investors in People (IiP), Investors in Young People (IiYP) and IIP's 'We Invest in Wellbeing', reflecting our commitment to supporting the development of all employees.

Leonardo is committed to net zero carbon emissions. In September 2021, the UK arm of the company published its first Carbon Reduction Plan, providing details of how it will achieve this goal. In November 2021, Leonardo was ranked in first place for the Aerospace & Defence industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) for the third consecutive year. Globally, the company is working towards the United National Sustainable Development Goals through its innovation and capabilities.

What are the key reasons why the Graduate Apprenticeship model suits your specific business/industry?

The graduate apprentice programme allows us to develop our apprentices’ software skills by combining live working with the academic element delivered by Heriot Watt University. Our apprentices achieve their degrees by embracing both the skills they acquire in their daily working life and the knowledge they absorb through their studies. In addition to this, they benefit from developing the behaviours the business requires, so that the programme produces software engineers who are ready to join the company with the correct skills and behaviours.

What appealed to you most about Heriot-Watt University as the GA provider?

The software programme delivered by Heriot Watt fits with the requirements of our business and the flexibility Heriot Watt allows is important, as it ensures that the programme meets our needs without detracting from degree requirements.

In what way has the candidate made a contribution to the workplace / business?

As Thomas has explained, he is now in Year 3 and whilst he is still on a learning programme, he is able to make a valuable contribution to the business with the skills he has developed in the early years of his apprenticeship.

How do you feel about Thomas’s future?

Thomas has the potential to build a long and successful career within the business. He is demonstrating both the technical skills and the behaviours that give us confidence that there is a very bright future ahead of him.

Based on your experience of the Graduate Apprenticeship programme would you happily employ another Graduate Apprentice in the future?

We continue to work with Heriot Watt each year with a new intake of graduate apprentices. Our reason is that we now have two cohorts of Graduate Apprentices who have completed the programme and are advancing their careers within the business. This has demonstrated to all the benefits of the programme.