Home > Blog > A week in the life of a degree apprentice

A week in the life of a degree apprentice

Tom Sherlock

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Tom Sherlock gives us an insight into the combination balancing work and study as one of the first degree apprentices.

Hi, my name’s Tom Sherlock, and I’m one of four IBM Degree Apprentices, in partnership with Queen Mary University London (QMUL). This means I work for IBM three days a week, and study for a BSc in Digital and Technical Solutions at QMUL the other two. It’s financed one third by IBM and two thirds by the government. My role is primarily analysing and organising data for ATMs (cash machines) in TSS, IBM’s maintenance business. It’s a busy time for us, as we’ve just taken on two more contracts with high street banks.

Today, Monday I’m in IBM Southbank

Working on organising engineers and keys to access banks at night to allow for 24/7 maintenance. Other times I’m at the client’s head offices, or working from home if I don’t have meetings.

Tuesday is a uni day for me.

I’m in lectures/labs from 10am-4pm. This really gives me a chance to get stuck into the technical side of things, but without being at university full time. Three years of full time study had no appeal to me, so I applied for an IBM apprenticeship and was selected for this scheme! The choice of modules also complements my work well, they’re data/information focused rather than more business focused – we chose from IT consultant, data analyst or business analyst streams, each with different modules to allow for the best flexibility for us.

Wednesday meeting with my mentor

It’s a quieter day in my department as the volume of calls from the weekend have been dealt with, so I can catch up on admin and meet with my Early Professionals Manager – someon​e unrelated my team that’s with me throughout my degree. Here to provide help and management with my personal development, placements, and university.

I first applied for the Level 4 Apprenticeship scheme, and was then invited to be a part of the Degree Apprentice pilot. I think it’s a lesser-known scheme, and something that was never mentioned by my college, but is definitely something that anyone wanting a degree and real world experience should look further into.

Thursday I’m working from home today

Continuing to assist in helping engineers to fix ATMs. This means I have the flexibility to work on my university work based project, a module which integrates most with our work. We take one work-based module each semester which sees us relating a theoretical model or process to our line of business, allowing us to see real world results from our studies. Both IBM and QMUL are keen to support us as much as possible, with the university offering Skype sessions and lecture recordings, and IBM offering monthly calls and access to data/models they use.

Friday back at university for more lectures

The modules this term have been more focused on the business, which gives us help at university as we’re getting experience from our business areas at IBM too. I chose to do a degree apprenticeship for this very reason – it’s a technical role that complements a technical degree, but there’s also more management/business options we can take too. University highlights so far have involved coding a game and building a blog from scratch, whilst IBM highlights include assisting in fitting anti-fraud devices and working with predictive analytics.

Although it’s hard work and not for the faint hearted, I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good mix of work and study, with the benefits of not having to pay for it.

Universities UK has just published a report – The future growth of degree apprenticeships which reviews the development of degree apprenticeships to date, and examines what needs to happen to ensure their future growth and success.

Leave a Comment