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'From day one, I was set on an apprenticeship'

Year 13 student secures dream apprenticeship.

UTC Reading Year 13 student and student Vice President Nicola Harrison has successfully secured a degree apprenticeship with a leading multinational defence technology company, starting in September.  

Being in the top 1% getting through to the interview process, Nicola competed against 1,200 other applicants. 

Nicola said: “When I found out I had got it, I was jumping up and down; I was really pleased. My parents were really proud and it didn’t take me long to make the decision to accept the offer.” 

Nicola joins the firm on its Digital and Technology Solutions degree programme as a Software Engineer Degree Apprentice. The apprenticeship will last 4½ years and see Nicola rotating around different departments.  

“The fact that at the ripe age of 18, you will be doing all sorts of things that people in other companies wouldn’t get to do was a big driver for me. I feel I can make a real impact working there. There’s around 6,000 people in the company, which means you will get greater access to training and mentoring opportunities. You are not just a cog in the machine.” 

“I did apply to quite a few apprenticeships and actually also got an offer from VMWare but declined. Steph Mitchell, Executive Director of Careers and Destinations, at UTC Reading was really helpful with CV support as she’s very knowledgeable on the sorts of things to add for apprenticeship applications.” 

“My views on apprenticeships changed as soon as I arrived at UTC Reading. At my old school, my plan was to go to university to study music (classical piano) and then when I moved to the UTC to follow an IT career route, from day one, I was set on an apprenticeship.” 

“I didn’t like the idea of going to university and not working in the same field alongside my studies. I want to be given things to go off and learn about. I also just don’t think it’s economically wise for me personally; not only is debt something you’ll have, but my going to university full time means I would not have been able to get 4 years of full-time work alongside my degree. Everything economic and experience wise has led me down the apprenticeship route.” 

With a few months left at UTC Reading before completing her studies, Nicola said: “After four years here, I am now ready to spread my wings. I will miss friends and the staff here, but I am looking forward to the challenge. It’s exciting. 

“I am pretty set on my career as a software engineer, but I also want to work my way up to being in a managerial role. I enjoy managing people but to be a good manager, I will need to understand the fundamentals first.  

“My advice to students applying for apprenticeships is work experience, work experience! The companies do not particularly care what grades you get. They are looking to see if you have experience and want to learn. Whether you are doing freelancing, or if you have a coding portfolio, these help to be able to talk about them in interviews. Although you will still be considered if you don’t have work experience, it really does help with your application. They never state that it is a requirement but every time I have been interviewed, I've always been asked to give examples of these experiences. They want to see that you have gone out of your way to seek opportunities and want to do it, rather than had to.” 

We wish Nicola all the best in her apprenticeship in September and will be following her journey and look forward to seeing her success. 


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