Ben Sharp

Investing in apprenticeships: Meet Alex and Jade

As an innovative company, we’re always looking to the future, and it’s not just about the tech… our team is key to our success!

Over the last seven years, we’ve welcomed a multitude of digital tech creatives across a broad range of routes to industry – whether that be graduates, industry placements, internships, PhD students, or of course, apprentices. We’ve also supported work experience placements and ‘Hands-on Tech’ sessions in secondary schools for more than half of the company’s existence.

Throughout this outreach we’ve found engaging with students at a young age is so important, both for businesses and our next generation. By investing in this up-and-coming talent we can provide opportunities to nurture aspiring techies… all while bringing diverse experiences, new skills and fresh perspectives into our team. It’s rewarding, fulfilling and prosperous, with many of our students returning as full-time colleagues too.

Apprenticeships in particular are a great way to begin a successful career – enabling students to learn on the job and earn money, and qualifications, at the same time. We’re currently supporting four apprentices across our departments – in UX & UI, web development, and animation and motion graphics. They’re gaining hands-on experience and developing skills for the working world in a challenging, exciting and rewarding environment. We’re proud to be helping them put their knowledge into action right from the start.

Our team are also keen to promote the industry to young people like themselves. So as Head of Operations at Bloc, I caught up with two of our current apprentices – Alex and Jade – to talk about their experiences, their routes to industry and their tips for aspiring techies.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your role and what do you get up to day-to-day?

My name is Alexander Collyer, and I am an ‘Apprentice Front-End Web Developer’ at Bloc.

Technology has always been something I have been interested in. With a general computer science background, I self-taught the basics of programming and am completing a Level 4 General Software Development course as a part of my apprenticeship.

My current position has me working as a part of the web team completing development work, interacting with clients, and deploying projects to name just a few things.

How did you get into the industry?

I completed computer science courses at GCSE and A-Level which provided me with a good understanding and basic qualifications.

I had also visited Bloc on two occasions before joining the company in December 2020: a week’s placement in 2017 and another in 2019, both working in the 3D modelling and animation department for work experience. Bloc was therefore a company I was familiar with, and once I’d had the chance to prove my capabilities too. While I ended up joining the company in a different field, I believe strongly that the time I’d spent at the company had a direct impact on my step into my chosen industry at Bloc.

What’s your top tip for aspiring web developers?

Be proactive! To secure the position itself I got in touch with Bloc’s Founder and Director Keith Cox to enquire about any positions the company may have, providing my CV and examples of my work. It was then agreed I would be brought into the company as an apprentice.

Once in the job teamwork and communication are key, alongside your ability to manage your time – especially if you find yourself on multiple projects in your working week.

What sources of information have you found useful throughout your learning?

Through teaching myself the basics of computer programming I’ve found websites like Codecademy to be really helpful with interactive courses and challenges. Google is your best friend and Stack Overflow is also a very helpful forum.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your role and what do you get up to day-to-day?

I am a young, puzzle-obsessed digital artist who specialises in character illustration. I have always been a creative at heart, and so being an artist has always been my goal, be it digital or traditional.

My position at Bloc is oriented around asset and animation creation, usually in vector-based mediums, and I am currently taking a ‘Junior Content Producer’ apprenticeship.

The tasks I usually complete are creating and editing animations and digital visualisations to be used internally or by clients for a myriad of reasons, from marketing to training. These can be either from scratch or developing assets from our large-scale, established asset base. Examples produced for Bloc include animations to showcase our team and culture and to celebrate Christmas. I’ve also helped to digitise student wellbeing materials for Derby’s Ash Croft Primary.

How did you get into the industry?

I have always had a close relationship with Bloc. Through taking the opportunity to spend time there and through my work shadowing and work placements I’ve seen the company develop. Before joining Bloc I completed a foundation-level course in graphic design while working part-time in retail, using my spare time to build my portfolio of work which helped secure my position on the apprenticeship programme.

What’s your top tip for aspiring digital artists?

Have a passion linked to the career you’re aiming for. For example, I wish to make my own animated series one day, and so learning as much as I can comes naturally as a result.

What sources of information have you found useful throughout your learning?

Stylistic inspirations are something I have accumulated over the course of my life, but differ from project to project as different requirements are needed. For example, if I’m making something minimalist, I look to the likes of Olly Moss for inspiration, as they are an artist I have looked up to for years.

If you want to keep learning there’s a wealth of information sources out there. I like YouTube tutorials by channels like DesignCourse, Keyframe Academy and, of course, Video Copilot.

The techies of tomorrow

Supporting a vital route to industry, we’ve welcomed 6 apprentices in 7 years – but we’re not just about the next generation, some of our staff are former apprentices too.

Our IT Technician, Alex Notley, is responsible for the management of our digital infrastructure and systems. He began his career in the world of IT as an apprentice seven years ago. Reflecting on his experience, Alex shares why he chose the apprenticeship route into industry…

From apprentices to graduates, industry professionals to KTPs – our growing success is rooted in our commitment to proactively develop next-generation skills and recruit the best talent in the region. We’re proud to be supporting a variety of routes into industry, and in turn, be developing a strong, diverse and forward-thinking workforce. We look forward to what innovations the techies of tomorrow will bring!