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?

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

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.

Inspiring digital skills in the next generation

I recently had the opportunity to go with colleagues on behalf of Sopra Steria to Victoria College in Belfast alongside Digital Shared Service (DSS) to present to fifty teenage girls on Working in IT.  It was a great opportunity for us to give something back to the local community and support Digital NI in promoting STEM subjects and digital technology careers to students.

Sopra Steria has an active role in each of our local communities where we partake in outreach programmes.

We aim to open the student’s eyes to the wonders of IT, the world of digital and its impact on individuals working and personal life.

It was a strange, but nice feeling being back in the classroom, especially being the one talking at the front! I had the challenge of beginning the session, introducing my company and myself to the students and explaining my own journey from a history degree to working in IT as a Graduate Business Analyst. I explained how not all jobs in IT are code based, the unique job roles included within IT and the different skills needed.

We next wanted to highlight the importance of IT within everyday life and introduced “Game Changer” a programme which has the ambition of raising physical fitness and promoting healthy lifestyles in children and that Sopra Steria is working on with Halton CCG and Widnes Vikings Rugby. Through the programme we have developed TRAKKA – a fitness band and associated measurement and monitoring application – and Sopra Steria’s programme lead Louise O’Leary captivated the students, challenging them to think about how simple changes in lifestyle can create big changes in wellbeing. Although the TRAKKA wristband was designed for younger kids they were interested to see how the ecosystem developed from TRAKKA:

Inspire, Inform, Improve

diagram 'trakka' ecosystem - circle of text: Nutrition, Data/Web/Apps, Information, Behaviour & Wellbeing, Academic Improvement, Activity, Content, Ideas - back to Nutrition

Data is at the heart of TRAKKA, highlighting performance and areas for improvement and following on from Louise’s presentation, another of my colleagues Dermot Boyle moved the conversation on to another important topic, data analytics, bringing it to life with real life and familiar examples. This is another emerging IT area where we will see increasing focus over the coming years and where apprentices and graduates will be able to make their mark as they start their careers. Designed to get them involved, we concluded with a quick hands-on session, asking them to answer questions from information in our TRAKKA, Power BI dashboard.

In our work with other schools and colleges across the UK, we’ve been involved in a number of projects providing Raspberry Pi kits helping to building IT and entrepreneurial skills. At the end of our visit we donated a Raspberry Pi to Victoria College to support them in working with the students to develop coding knowledge in a fun and interactive way.

Louise, Dermot and I all really loved being involved in this visit; it was fun and energetic and we really hope the students felt the same. It appears our time was well spent as the school has asked whether some of the children could take up work placements – so we may even see a few of the faces again in and around the Belfast office! It’s a big choice choosing your future career and it would be nice to think that we provided someone with that spark of inspiration to enter the world of IT.

If this is something that you feel interested in or want to know more about, please feel free to get in touch – we would be more than happy to help! You can leave a reply below, or contact me via email.

image of students at Victoria College
Our student audience at Victoria College

Look at how our sustainability programme encourages students to build skills and careers in IT.

Understand more about our vibrant team and work in Northern Ireland.

We offer great training, development and career progression prospects – find out more about our Early Careers opportunities.

Accelerating my career – taking next steps with Sopra Steria

I’m a Junior PMO Analyst in Belfast, and I’ve recently joined the Sopra Steria Graduate Programme. Previously, I was a graduate project manager with Hewlett Packard Enterprise working on a range of hardware and software infrastructure projects. I am really looking forward to learning and working with the Regional Government team in Belfast and this short blog outlines my experiences to date in my new role.

The beginning: Edinburgh

Monday 4th July 2016 finally arrived – a date to remember for me and 32 other graduates beginning their career with Sopra Steria in various streams including Project Management, Java, Testing, Business Analysis, UI, SAS and GIS.

The induction was a great start to joining the company. ‘Day One’ allowed us to gain an in-depth overview of our new company – which markets we are active in, the services and solutions we provide and highlighted the opportunities for us to develop within the company. But, more importantly, it allowed us to get to know our future colleagues on a personal level as these will be who we’ll work alongside for years to come.

There was a social element too – and it was great to have an opportunity to get to know new colleagues in a more relaxed environment, as well as to talk informally to various managers away from the office.

There was a real focus on enabling us as new starters to meet a range of current staff and previous graduates. I learned a lot from asking questions about their roles and the clients that they are working with – a great benefit as they were able to give examples of real-world problems that Sopra Steria solve. During this on-boarding week, we also attended numerous instructor-led courses such as Agile Methodologies, Testing and Corporate Structure – a great foundation to understand more about the way Sopra Steria works and its approach to client engagement. Towards the end of the week, everyone received an overview of their next eight weeks in terms of scheduled training. Mine is a mix of on-the-job learning and understanding the core project management fundamentals taught within the Association of Project Management Professionals study guide.

As we said goodbye to our new colleagues and friends and I realised that I had successfully completed my first working week as an employee of Sopra Steria!

Next step: a warm Belfast welcome

As with all new starters, we returned to our contractual offices for our second week of work. For me that’s Belfast and the office is located right in the city centre and a 5-minute walk from the train station. The first few days focused on getting to know my new Belfast colleagues and more about our business in Northern Ireland. As I was being introduced I thought “I am never going to be able to remember everyone’s name!” But thankfully, it’s only taken me five weeks to overcome this. The Belfast office is home to around 80 people, but there are quite a few based on client sites so I am still getting to know new people who only occasionally work in the office.

When I was in Edinburgh during the on-boarding week I learned that the Belfast office and staff had the reputation for a sweet tooth and that any time they visited there were always cakes, buns and biscuits on offer. I found this very much the case! In the short spell I have been in the Belfast office we buy buns and cakes to celebrate pretty much anything – whether it’s a promotion, leaving party or someone’s birthday and just in case we are running short on these events there is a monthly bake-off between members of staff for bragging rights in the office. There have been rumours of a graduate bake-off happening in the near future, but I see myself eating cakes rather than making them!

As I continued to find my feet within the project management team I was gradually given an overview of each regional government client we work with and invited to attend meetings regarding upcoming projects which gave a realistic view of the projects I would be getting involved in. These face-to-face meetings are a great benefit as they allow me to see where various departments and teams within Sopra Steria fit and come together to complete projects, they are also a good way to meet the key decision-makers from a customer perspective and introduce yourself.

Everyone has been very friendly, helpful and welcoming. I’ve really valued the many offers of support from across the team and guidance to help build my new career. I’ve had some key pieces of advice:

  1. make the most of any opportunity that presents itself
  2. be responsible for driving my own career
  3. don’t be afraid to contribute by sharing ideas or thoughts on promoting or enhancing Sopra Steria. It’s great to know that at such an early stage in my career and being so new into the business that my opinion counts.

I’ve been assigned work on two different local government projects and I’m really looking forward to getting involved and understanding these accounts in more detail. Project Management is very much a learning through experience stream, reading books and attending courses is beneficial – but you really learn by doing.

I’m also really impressed with Sopra Steria’s policy on developing and enhancing employees’ talents by encouraging attendance at workshops and training courses to attain professional certification. I’m attending a 3-day Project Management course in mid-September and I am looking forward to meeting up with the other project management new starters from other organisations, while enhancing my knowledge and skills in this field.

My first six weeks at Sopra Steria have flown by – it only seems like yesterday I was travelling to Edinburgh for my induction. In this time, I’ve really settled into my new surroundings and role and am extremely excited for the future – on a personal level for continuing to develop my project management skills and for Sopra Steria as a company continuing to work on innovative and exciting solutions for our clients.


If you, or someone you know, has graduated recently and looking for exciting opportunities, why not take a look at this year’s Graduate Recruitment programme?