Why Digital Skills should be top of the class in today’s schools

What will the jobs market be like in 5 years’ time (or even in 1 years’ time) – given the rapid changes that are going on right now?

Robotics and Intelligent Automation are becoming mainstream, chatbots and avatars are taking over call centres and new fintech banks such as Monzo and Starling are turning the traditional banking market on its head.  People of all ages will have to start acquiring new skills and approaches to working if they want an interesting, sustainable and well-paid job.

It’s a fact that digital is transforming the jobs market.  People with digital skills and knowledge are in high demand and are commanding high salaries.  Data is the major differentiator – and understanding how to gain insight from the increasingly huge volumes of data that we are all generating is crucial to every business right now.  Universities and many Financial Services organisations have already started investing in digital and data.  There are a plethora of courses and training available – but until recently – digital wasn’t really taught in schools – leaving young people who didn’t choose (or couldn’t afford) to go to university woefully under skilled and unprepared for the new reality of employment in today’s demanding jobs market.

The first Digital School of Excellence

That’s why it’s great to see Newbattle High School in Midlothian launching the first Scottish-based Digital School of Excellence.  As well as teaching digital skills, Newbattle will be one of the first schools to also include Data Science as a core part of its curriculum. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics as well as local businesses like Sopra Steria are investing in this landmark Digital School as they know it’s the only way to get the right ‘talent’ and skills into the jobs market.  The school doesn’t just teach digital and data skills – it also encourages its pupils to be entrepreneurial, to challenge the status quo and to understand the creation process of great products as well as instilling the right skills and techniques to ‘sell’ their ideas to a sceptical and highly demanding audience.

The Unified Schools Programme

In Scotland, the financial services industry is working on its ‘Unified Schools Programme’ under the leadership of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) and led by HSBC’s Colin Halpin. It’s an exciting project with a joint message about why financial services is an exciting, progressive and diverse industry to work in. The programme is focused on promoting the sector as THE digitally focused and customer centric place to be for young people, highlighting the advantages a career in digital can offer.

An SFE pilot project involving Newbattle High School and Queensferry High School kicked off in November 2018 to give young people opportunities to experience financial services through short placements. SFE members and Skills Development Scotland are fully supporting the initiative.  Why?  Big business knows it needs fresh talent and realises it needs to promote the financial services industry as a great place to work, highlighting the multiple opportunities that the sector can deliver if it’s to get the creative and talented people it needs to be future ready. There really is a job for everyone in financial services – and for young people with a positive attitude, creativity, enthusiasm and focus, it can be a fantastic first step into the world of work.

I used to be concerned for today’s young people facing an uncertain future in a demanding jobs market.  Now I can see exciting new career opportunities where the education system, with support from government and industry helps the next generation to think differently, to be brave and to create ideas that will shape our future.  Scotland is setting the pace for change – the question is – when will the rest of the UK catch up and put digital skills top of the agenda?

Work Experience – Why Sopra Steria?

Sopra Steria recently provided a work experience placement to James Hogg, who visited our Edinburgh office earlier this month. James was based with me in the Government Sales Support Team for most of the week working on a variety of tasks (we kept him busy!), as well as spending time in our Digilab and meeting colleagues from other areas of the business. Read on to hear in his own words how James found the experience.


Introduction

I’m James, I’m 15 years old and have done a week of work experience at Sopra Steria’s Edinburgh office. Having little clue what I wanted to do when I grow up, choosing Sopra Steria for my work experience turned out to be the perfect choice. From my work experience I wanted a rough idea of what the World of Work was like, what it involved and how it worked/functioned. After an enjoyable week of working alongside the Government Sales Support team, Recruitment and in the Digilab, I learnt what I wanted to from work experience, with lots more on top of that.

What I learnt during my work experience at Sopra Steria

On my work experience I learnt loads!

I learnt bits about how an office functions and the dynamics of an office, who does what and why they do it. With Sales Support I learnt all the ins and outs of what they do on a day to day basis, including learning all about contract opportunities and how they go about finding relevant ones for the company, sending them on to people who will either take up the opportunity further or decline it.

With the Recruitment team of Sopra Steria I learnt the basics of what their role in the company is and what they do on a day to day basis, I found this interesting not only because their role in the company is pivotal but because it’s good insight for my CV writing future to know what exactly employment teams look for.

In the Digilab I was in the most futuristic section of Sopra Steria, being given the opportunity to work in the Digilab was extremely interesting. I was challenged with a multitude of new tasks which for the most part I didn’t know were a thing: tasked with taking a computer out a wall, stripping it down to the bare minimum, burning a software onto a disk and using the same disk to download the software onto the computer. After doing all of this I had to download a service which allows you to operate devices in a room from your computer (e.g. Lights, TVs volume, music, Alexas). This was definitely not anything I had done before, I found it challenging but that made completing it that more rewarding.

Also, throughout my week I learnt lots about coding. I found this challenging, yet interesting. Through the Codecademy website I completed tutorials – I went from changing the colour of my name with basic code to designing a website all within a week.

Along with all these great skills and things I learnt about Sopra Steria, I also learnt lots of transferable skills that I can further develop and use in the future.

Greatest achievement in my week of work experience

I would say one of my greatest achievements in my week of work experience would be creating a website. What makes this my greatest achievement, in a week full of achievements and new situations to try and prevail in, was the fact that I had never coded before. Before my week with Sopra Steria I had maybe done one course early on in high school which consisted of not much coding. However, after my week I had learnt a lot of different types of coding (website design, HTML, CSS and other basic code) and had designed multiple webpages with my new found skills.

Another one of my achievements from my week of work experience would be my time in the Digilab and what I achieved within my time here, doing all sorts with computers, stuff that I didn’t even know was a thing. Once again, from previously little to no knowledge of what I was doing to completing tasks is the reason why this is one of my achievements in a full on week.

Would I recommend work experience at Sopra Steria

Yes, I would absolutely recommend someone choose to do their work experience at Sopra Steria. I would recommend it for many reasons, but primarily because you meet lots of friendly, interesting and welcoming people who will help you learn and make your week worthwhile, also learning lots of transferable skills in the process making it extremely worth it for someone to do their work experience at Sopra Steria.


At Sopra Steria we are committed to Work Experience, Internships and Student Placements – allowing students to gain experience, get a feel for working life and potentially help shape and inform their future career choice.

Our sustainability programme encourages students to build skills and careers in IT, and we offer great training, development and career progression prospects – find out more about our Early Careers opportunities.

Our Apprentices Answer

by Nadia Shafqat, Junior Software Engineer

In an ongoing series, we hear from both our current and past apprentices about their experiences. Apprenticeships are offered to anyone at any level, from those at the start of their career to those who wish to change the direction of their career and learn new skills. Here we hear from Nadia.

Tell me about your journey in Sopra Steria.

I joined the Sopra Steria’s Apprenticeship Programme in October 2016, to get a more hands on, practical experience in the IT sector. My journey started of small, contributing to internal data projects where I built up my coding skills in JAVA and XQuery, before progressing on to a ‘leading edge’ client project developing an application, which will help them to continuously monitor, validate and communicate safety, clinical and product performance data. Initially, I focused on acquiring the necessary skills across various elements of the programme, including becoming proficient in Agile Scrum methodology and practice, however with the support of the team, and the resources available in Sopra Steria, I feel I am now at a level where I am a contributing member of the team.

What skills have you learnt?

I have been exposed to a variety of technical skills and languages, such as Java, Angular, Marklogic, etc. However, I have also picked up general work skills, e.g. Agile, and used this to enhance my already-present skills, such as teamwork, etc.

What has been your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement was being nominated for the FDM: Women in IT award.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship?

Definitely! An apprenticeship is a great way to experience the working industry and find what career you would like to pursue in the future, without any debt.

 

To learn more about our opportunities visit our apprenticeship page or if you have any further questions, email the team at early.careers@soprasteria.com

“I am your Father”… my experience with Shared Parental Leave

By Dave Parslew, Senior Internal Recruiter.

As well as looking after internal recruitment, Dave is a first time dad. In this post he talks about anticipating the birth of his first born, the decision to utilise Shared Parental Leave and why more men should be utilising SPL.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) for me seems like a fantastic opportunity to be able to spend some quality time with my first born, Sam. During our pregnancy, my wife Anna and I decided that SPL was definitely for us and when it came to ‘D’ day, we agreed that she will take the first 9 months and I will take the last 3. I always joked that May to August will be a perfect 3 months in the sun for me, though now with the birth of my child and all the work to look after a new baby, my views have of course changed!

Baby and DAve

The resemblance is already uncanny for Dave and baby Sam.

Quite a few years ago, I assumed that when I did actually have kids, I would have to go back to work after my 2 weeks of paternity and leave the all-important first year of quality time to my wife. I thought that was the only option and at the time it was! However, things have changed and the question I asked myself and all the other eligible fathers out there is why wouldn’t you?!

Around 285,000 couples in the UK are eligible every year for shared parental leave, but take-up “could be as low as 2%”, according to the Department for Business. Nearly three years after it was introduced around half of the general public still are unaware the option exists. Experts say that as well as a lack of understanding of what is on offer, cultural barriers and financial penalties are deterring some parents from sharing parental leave.

There seems to be a lot of “research undertaken by trusted organisations” about SPL out there but I say don’t just rely on the headlines and newspaper write-ups; delve a little deeper into the detail and look at the research for yourself!

Research shows the poor take-up of the policy is due to concerns about lack of financial support for fathers. I say, if you manage your finances correctly and are prepared for the eventuality that you might be slightly out of pocket for a few months of your life, you will get to spend some amazing time with your children (time you will NEVER get back) so just go for it!

However, the main problem with childcare take up remains – many men just wouldn’t want it because they’re scared it would impact their careers. It’s not that men’s attitudes are anti-childcare these days. It’s more that this fear outweighs fathers’ enthusiasm to have a stint at being a stay-at-home dad or the desire to exercise their legal right. It’s the dated belief that a man better serves their family by sticking to a traditional career path.

In my opinion, if you care that much about money, then perhaps you shouldn’t have kids in the first place as they WILL most definitely suck you dry of most of your finances. However if you see it as I see it then everyone’s a winner!

This is a government funded scheme remember, so in my case the company I work for (Sopra Steria) will have to cover my work for 3 months but they have been very accommodating about it and in some ways educated by it due to the lack of uptake.

Fair enough I won’t get paid for 3 months but there is an option to plan some ‘Staying in Touch’ days with HR (paid in full for the day) and I still accrue holiday while I am off along with Bank Holidays.

Hopefully my example will encourage others to do the same. To top it all off of course, I will have an awesome few months with my new son. I am looking forward to this immensely and the bottom line is, ”You only live once”!

Below are the key points about SPL, learn more about the intiative here.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

  • Shared parental leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015
  • It allows parents to share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after they have a baby
  • Parents can take time off separately or can be at home together for up to six months
  • SPL is paid at £140.98 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower

 

Why Apprenticeships?

by Sara Keegan, Early Careers Recruiter

I started working on apprenticeships for Sopra Steria following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017. Sopra Steria had been recruiting apprentices since 2012 so the introduction of this levy only enabled us to grow and continue to offer apprenticeships to anyone at any level, from those at the start of their career to those who wish to change the direction of their career and learn new skills.

My role as an Early Careers Recruiter covers everything from showcasing what opportunities we have available, to keeping in touch with our apprentices throughout their careers. I can honestly say I love my job.  I am passionate about developing the apprenticeship scheme and the opportunities it offers. At a recent forum delivered by our training provider, the question raised to all of us was “Why Apprenticeships?” For me that’s an easy one to answer.

University is drilled into students and parents as being the only option to succeed in a career, but you could do a degree on an apprenticeship, gain commercial experience within the professional world AND be debt free!! Apprenticeships ensure that we are opening up the potential career paths into the tech industry.

Regardless of the levy being introduced, development among young talent is something that Sopra Steria are heavily driving. We are invested in developing talent, from new recruits to reskilling existing staff.  Apprenticeships play an important role within the company and will provide skilled workers for the future. For many, if you are thinking about a career change and learning a new skill it can be daunting to start again. Instead having on-the-job learning, mentoring and a buddy system, you will get to study with our award winning Apprentice training partners to gain Industry recognised qualifications.

It has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of apprenticeships and I want to help spread the word and remove preconceived notions of apprenticeships. This is the new wave of apprentices, working in an innovative industry. Being agile is a skill echoed in our workplace and one that all our apprentices find is second nature. As they learn they apply it directly to their roles, seeing first-hand what works and adapting their tact if not.

We will have a number of exciting positions throughout 2018, so keep updated on our apprenticeship page.  If you’re keen to learn and are passionate about technology, find out more by dropping us an email to early.careers@soprasteria.com

A look back at my apprenticeship

by Peter Apostoli, Digital & Strategy Operations Administrator

I started my apprenticeship at Sopra Steria on March 2016 and looking back on my time, it has been amazing to see where my career path has developed and how I have become more involved in a role I enjoy and am now skilled at.

I began as a business apprentice in the UK Exec office and it was an intense first three months. This included getting used to a new environment, the many systems in place and there always being new things to learn. As I continued my apprenticeship assignments I settled into the role more which helped me to come out of my shell. I began to network and build relationships with my colleagues which ensured that I became better known around the organisation. The skills I was learning was not just in business or project management, more a holistic approach of how to improve my communication and ability to work in a team which are just as important.

As I learnt more, I continued to take on added responsibility from my line manager. I thrived on the increased workload as it was good to know I could be entrusted and keep adding to the scope of my work. During my time I organised various trips for our CEO, managed diaries, liaised with external customers, attended various away days, assisted marketing & comms, monitored news that would impact our business and distilled this information for my team. I finished my apprenticeship with a level four in business and administration.

In October 2017, I was offered a role within IMSL as a junior cloud engineer. This was a role I did not suit but only through the opportunity did I gain that insight. While continuing in this role I found there was a new position available as a Digital and Strategy Operations administrator. Someone willing to take on a variety of different roles including diary administration, reporting, presenting and generally support in various areas of digital and strategy. From my previous experience as an apprentice I had the skills available to apply and was successful through the application and interview process. Since being in this role since February it is one that I am passionate about. Not only can I apply the skills learnt in my apprenticeship, but I am able to keep developing my knowledge around an amazing team.

I would recommend an apprenticeship to those who want the ability to gain qualifications and valuable business knowledge but who don’t want to go to university. For anyone looking to start their career path, though it’s easy to look back and see how you grew into a certain role it initially begins just by applying.

Find out more by clicking here or by emailing early.careers@soprasteria.com

Why did I choose the Apprentice route?

Did you know what you wanted to do when you left school?

When I was coming to the end of my school journey I had a few ideas, but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life.

I had many options, but it was difficult to know which direction to go in as I didn’t have any experience in the actual jobs themselves. What I found was that my school tended to push us towards the university and college route and didn’t really mention apprenticeships. It’s something I think puts people who learn like me at a disadvantage, as I learn more from first-hand experience than I do from any textbook. This shows in my performance in my exams, being more successful in the practical subjects such as drama and administration than subjects like maths and English.

In the end it felt right to opt for an apprenticeship and I’m very happy to be a project manager in Sopra Steria’s Business Process Services sector.

I first heard about Sopra Steria through my family as my cousin’s fiancé works in the programming side of things. I didn’t know very much about the company when I first started apart from the fact it is a French-owned IT company. I applied to a company called QA who helps those who want to become apprentices to find a placement in larger companies and, after only a few days with QA, I received a call to do an interview here at Sopra Steria. As the interview went on and I learnt more about the company, I became more drawn to the idea of IT and what the company has to offer in terms of growth and development as it enables you to move to various areas.

I must say I didn’t enjoy exams and with an apprenticeship there is still an exam that I need to revise for. However, I’m feeling more confident about this as with my day-to-day job I’m gaining so much experience, I’m using the terminology first-hand which helps me get a better understanding of it and, on top of that, I am able to learn useful and transferable skills that I don’t believe I would learn from sitting in lectures at university or college.

By doing an apprenticeship I am able to gain experience and try out the job while getting the same qualification I’d get if I just went to college. I think experience is key as it’s what employers tend to look for in a candidate so, by doing an apprenticeship I’m putting myself ahead of those who don’t have any experience.

With an apprenticeship I’m happy knowing that I have a job at the end of it with Sopra Steria. Another bonus is that I also don’t have to worry about taking out a student loan and paying it back in years to come as I am getting paid to learn something new.  For me it is a win, win situation!

In 2016, Sopra Steria recruited 13 apprentices, bringing the total to 42 active apprentices in technical and business roles across public and private sector client projects and in our internal corporate functions. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming an Apprentice, please contact our Early Careers team for information.