In September 2017, Team BrightGen tried something new, and welcomed our very first apprentices into the fold.

Over the last 2 years, the government has been making changes to encourage more students into apprenticeships and we were keen support this effort. We’ve been running our Graduate Scheme for six years with great success, and apprenticeships are another fantastic option for young people, offering them the opportunity to develop their skills and gain industry experience at the same time.

We had originally planned to offer two apprentices a position in 2017, but presented with such talent at the interview stage, chose three. Now, ten weeks into their thirteen month placement, we asked them how they’re getting on...

How did you find out about the Apprentice scheme?

Kieran - I found out about it on the gov.uk website and applied directly to the scheme. After filling out a form on the site, I was on the way to applying for the position of Apprentice Salesforce Consultant.

Toby - I actually found out about it because I applied for an apprenticeship I saw advertised directly at BrightGen and got a follow up call from StepForward, the provider of the apprenticeship.

Josh - I was the same. It was only at my StepForward assessment that I really learned about Salesforce and the scheme. It sounded interesting and I was surprised i didn't know about it beforehand considering how big it is.

So how does it work?

Josh - It’s a 12 month programme where we’re doing an apprenticeship in software development. We go to Waterloo on a weekly basis for training and for the rest of the week we are based at the BrightGen Essex office, putting theory into practice.

Kieran -The weekly training sessions cover a lot, including learning about the Salesforce platform, revising for our Salesforce Certifications (ADM201 and App Builder) and also covering the topics of the apprenticeship which involve the theory behind Software Development as well as practical parts including hands on programming.

Toby - It’s an achievement in itself to get a chance to work on this apprenticeship as from this years 2000 applicants only 20% were successful.

Had you always wanted to work in technology?

Kieran - I have always been interested in computers, however I actually joined the British Army when I was 16, straight after my GCSE’s, and spent the next 12 months having a blast and making lifelong friends. After an injury, I unfortunately had to leave and I chose a new direction. Salesforce appealed to me as it’s a constantly evolving platform. I like it because no two days are the same, each of the clients we work with is unique in their own way.

Toby - I have some personal experience with I.T and coding, which helped me to know I would enjoy learning and working with technology. But having also worked with customers in my last job in a cafe, this position appealed to me because I felt this would be the sort of role where I could put all this collective knowledge together. From what I’ve learned so far, that definitely seems to be the case.

So what was that first day of your apprenticeship like?

Toby - My first day, and week in fact, was at the StepForward offices in Waterloo. I’ve not spent much time in London so it was quite a week. It was great to meet all the tutors, our mentors for the year, and of course our fellow classmates. We got straight to work on studying for ADM 201 (the Salesforce Administration exam, which will be our first qualification in Salesforce if we pass!) and working on Trailhead, a fantastic Salesforce learning tool.

Kieran - This week really felt like a crash course in Salesforce to me - it helped me feel prepared to go to BrightGen the next week, knowing a little of what our colleagues were actually doing in their day to day roles even if I couldn’t do it yet!. We also spent some time throughout the week creating our professional online profiles and learning about the importance of building a network, which was great.

It sounds like a busy week, and you hadn’t even been to BrightGen yet!

Toby - I was so excited to know what it would be like at BrightGen, and nervous too. The ‘proper’ working world was brand new to me, I didn’t know what to expect.

Josh - The first thing we did was sit in a meeting room with Julie (Head of HR) and she gave us an overview of BrightGen including what all the different team's do which was really helpful. Then we met some of the team, got our macbooks and got straight on with some work!

Kieran - I had no idea what to expect from this kind of job, for the past 12 months I had lived, slept, worked and played with my work colleagues and now I was entering a completely different way of working. The three of us met up on the first day and went in together, so at least we knew some people!

Toby - But we were all keen to join in with everything going on, and probably shouldn't have worried as BrightGen is a really welcoming place. We went for the traditional service team Wednesday lunch at the local pub, and played some football after work on Thursday.

What experience would you say you are getting from your apprenticeship so far?

Josh - We’re mostly working with the service team supporting clients with their cases, so as well as learning about Salesforce we are getting to learn a bit about how different businesses work. BrightGen look after a variety of clients from lots of different industries such as airports, charities, media and manufacturing companies.

Kieran - I am currently working mainly with one large client providing first-line support to their employees. An average day will involve creating new users, creating reports or even diagnosing faults. I’ve had a chance to work on creating solutions to some of these problems too. Every now and then, the opportunity presents itself for me to go on a client visit and actually talk to the customers face to face, the best so far was to Westminster to visit the Cabinet Office

Toby - Another big focus is passing these exams we have on the horizon, as that will put us in a great position immediately as well as thinking ahead to how our careers might unfold.

What has been your best experience so far?

Josh - I went on a meeting with a prospective service customer recently which was really interesting and gave me an insight into some of the work I will hopefully be doing later on as I learn more. But I also really liked the Bootcamp day we went to at Salesforce Tower in Liverpool street, London. It gave me a better perspective of the whole Salesforce ecosystem, plus it’s an amazing office!

Toby - This is an easy question for me - I got to go to the Mclaren technology centre with one of the BrightGen Technical Leads and one of the Service Managers, and I am a keen Formula 1 fan! We were there to discuss how their experience with our service was going so far and plan priorities for the next period. I took notes and really got a good understanding of what a client such as Mclaren requires from BrightGen. But also, they offered us a short tour of the boulevard and let me take photos of the cars and the trophies to remember the day.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in a job like yours?

Kieran - I’d recommend using the Trailhead learning tool straight away, it's never too early and it’s free. It will help in interviews as well as just for your own understanding.

Toby - I agree. But beyond that it’s down to you to study what is necessary for you and your job requirements, so put the time in.

Josh - I’d say if they’re new to Salesforce as I was, try not be intimidated by how big it is and let that put you off. It can be confusing at first, but everyone starts at the beginning and the apprenticeship surrounds you with help and support both at your employer and with StepForward.

What would you say to anyone ‘on the fence’ about pursuing an apprenticeship over other employment or continued education?

Kieran - For those who are just leaving Secondary School and deciding whether to go to Sixth Form/College/University or do an apprenticeship, it is much like everything else - the apprenticeship is all down to what you make of it. You could turn up and just do the minimum, thinking about your pay at the end of the month, but if you set your standard higher than that, you will get much more benefit for your career.

Toby - This apprenticeship is really down to what suits you personally and your attitude. If it sounds like something you can enjoy and can dedicate yourself to then I would seriously recommend it. Apprenticeships are a perfect way to get into full time work from a young age and with limited experience. Of course if University is what you’ve got your heart set on then you should absolutely go for it - work will be waiting for you after it’s done. I knew University just wasn’t for me, and I’ve found what is the right fit, so I feel lucky.

BrightGen is a Salesforce Platinum level Consulting Partner with 11 years experience. Learn more about entry and experienced level opportunities at BrightGen on our Careers Page. We secured our apprentices via the Stepforward scheme run by our customer The Challenge.