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SEPA and Foundation Apprenticeships

March 20, 2018

In this case study, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) describes how it has arranged Foundation Apprenticeships for school pupils in North Lanarkshire, giving young people the chance to develop skills such as software development. Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) are part of SEPA's 2016 and 2018 Social Impact Pledges.                                                

SEPA pledged to develop ‘Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs)’ for pupils in the North Lanarkshire area to increase the positive impact we make on our local communities. FAs are a work-based learning opportunity for senior-phase secondary school pupils.  Lasting two years, pupils typically begin their FAs in the last years of secondary schoolPicture caption: SEPA’s 3 foundation apprentices .  Young people spend time out of school at college or with a local employer, and complete the FA alongside their other subjects like National 5s and Highers.

In September 2017 three FAs started their placements in information technology working in our Information Services (IS) department in the area of software development. Our FAs work with us one day per week for eight months in our Angus Smith Building at Eurocentral.    

The IS team designed a placement based on the full software development life cycle so that the FAs would be responsible for the analysis, design, development and testing of the application they were tasked with developing. The FA’s were asked to design and build a “virtual pinboard” application for the IS team. The IS Test team will not always be located together and therefore wanted to have somewhere that team members could ask questions about what they’re doing and have other team members respond. Including a search facility so that staff could see if their query has already been raised and answered before they posted a new entry.

The analysis and design phases are now complete and FAs are currently building their parts of the application. They’re using a new programming language (PHP) with a SQL database (also new to them) and more advanced use of HTML than they have previously been accustomed to. Once development is complete they will be taught the fundamentals of the different types of software testing and will each test parts of the application that they didn’t develop.

Lynne Christie, manager of IS development says:

The experience has been far more rewarding than expected. It’s fantastic to be able to offer support and knowledge to young people who are so keen to make the most of the opportunity on offer and to help them have wider choices about what to do next after school. I would whole-heartedly recommend that other areas of SEPA explore the potential for taking on one or more FAs as their energy and enthusiasm really does shine through. It also offers SEPA staff a superb opportunity for developing their coaching and mentoring skills

The FAs were asked a series of interview questions about their experience and responded.

Are you enjoying the Apprenticeship? What do you like/dislike about your time in SEPA?

I’m enjoying the apprenticeship a lot, it’s the highlight of the week for me. I enjoy the workplace environment and doing actual work, rather than learning about skills for an exam. The only thing I dislike is that I’m only here once a week.

Is it what you expected?

The apprenticeship is nothing like what I expected, but it’s better than anything I could have expected and I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity.

 Click here to see more Social Impact Pledge case studies.


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