I have landed a very first software development apprenticeship job in a fintech company in December 2020 thanks to FIT. I decided to write a post about how I got to where I am now, in the hope of being helpful for people who are interested in applying for the programme or looking for a developer job in Ireland.
One thing I'd like to mention is that I don't have any tertial educational background at all. I graduated high school in Japan in 2010 and that was my highest educational attainment. Since then, I have always been working in the service industry. I hope this encourages people who are in a similar situation like me!
Why I decided to apply for the programme
However, I have to admit I was unsure to apply for the programme at first because I wanted to be hired as a self-taught developer believing that it might be only a feature of mine that I can be proud of. But now that I think about it, it's just how you might call yourself but nothing to do with your actual skillset. On top of that, all developers are at some level self-taught anyway.
So in April 2020, I decided to apply for the Tech Apprenticeship Programme which is coordinated by FIT, but I realized that I might not be eligible for the application.
Preparation for the application (April ~ July 2020)
This programme accepts the secondary school leavers who passed grades in at least five Ordinary level subjects (including Maths and English) as well as people who completed a corresponding level of education outside Ireland which I found very generous. However, the high school I graduated a long time ago didn't include maths or English in the curriculum, surprisingly.
So roughly speaking, there were two things that I had to do in order to be eligible for the application -- get a certificate for the leaving certificate level of maths and English.
(notes: I implied that I was not eligible at the time, but my case was a bit complicated so it might not be the case for other people. If you are interested in knowing if you are eligible, I recommend checking their website.)
I began from taking Alison Maths courses online from April and studied for about three months to get certificates. I really enjoyed it, because the teachers on the course were all excellent, and not to mention the customer support team in Alison was super helpful and efficient as well. It was also quite exciting to realize that math is very fun if I learn in English. For me, it was somehow much complicating to learn them in Japanese.
In June 2020, I started preparing for an English certificate test(IELTS). I booked the actual test for the end of July. I knew that it's going to be very challenging because the last time I took the test I failed, and since then I didn't bother taking it. But I passed just about in the first attempt, fortunately. Thanks to IELTS online tests who provides tons of pre-tests for free and it was perfect for the preparation.
So at the beginning of August 2020, I was all ready to send my application to FIT. Throughout the months I was studying, I was also working on my personal project to improve my programming skills.
Tests and Training (August ~ October 2020)
In order to actually participate in the programme, an applicant needs to be hired by a company as an apprentice so that they can provide both on-the-job and off-the-job training. So once FIT sees my application and aptitude is good enough for their criteria, they helped me for interviews. They were super helpful for building confidence and I got many tips that were useful for the real interview.
However, I was still unsure with my CV to be able to get hired by a company since there were not much to write on CV, so I kept learning to program online to represent what I am interested in.
In the end, I had 6 online certificates related to software development + Ordinary Mathematics & English certificates, as well as 5 personal projects and some freelance web development work experiences in my CV.
Interview (Nov 2020)
From this time, I try not to worry about interviews too much because it will drop my productivity significantly. Instead, I tried to focus on my personal project. Thanks to the team members in FIT, I got a chance to have an interview with a financial services firm which is in the field that I am very interested in and received a positive outcome from the company in November 2020.
Start of the programme (December 2020)
After getting introduction sessions from FIT with other apprentices who are participating in the programme in the same term, they allocated us to the Whitehall college in Dublin where we will be taking full-time off-the-job training for the first 6 months. Due to Covid-19, all the courses are held online, but I am grateful and excited to know apprentices from the same company as well as others, and be learning together and encouraging each other.
From now on (January 2021)
We have just started the actual course from the beginning of 2021 so we are studying the very first modules right now. I am going to write posts to reinforce what I have learned in the off-the-job part of the programme. Hopefully, these future articles can be useful as well for people who want to know what we do in the programme.
It has been a long way to get here, but I truly appreciate the support especially from the people in FIT and the company who hired me. I am super excited about what is coming, who I am getting to know and working together on the course of the programme and my career.
I really recommend the programme to anyone interested in getting into the IT industry in Ireland. If you feel that is you, I recommend visiting their website here.