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Case Study

Ellie McToal - Software Engineering

Ellie Mc Toal Case Study

I am 19 and in my final year of the Foundation Degree in Software Engineering course. After studying ICT at GCSE and A-Level I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the technology industry. As I learned more about Software Development, I became fascinated by the different methodologies in creating a product, and the many different job prospects that were on offer in the IT sector. During my time at school I realised that the IT industry is always evolving, and IT plays an essential part for businesses. Due to the Covid-19 situation I believe that many more people will see the positive impact that technology has on our lives, and will probably motivate more people to consider studying an IT subject so they can work in this sector.

What appealed to me the most about this course, as opposed to going straight to University or doing a Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA), was the work based learning module. At University you are not usually exposed to the working world until the third year of your course, and for HLA’s you enter it from the outset. Personally, I prefer the structure of the Foundation Degree course which offers 1 ½ years of learning, and then entering the workplace for a 15-week industrial work placement. This structure equipped me better to enter the world of work, as it ensured that I was getting early exposure to the industry, and it enhanced the skillset which I had developed in the classroom. The timing of the work based learning module at the end of the final year (second year), offers flexibility for the students as they can choose to extend their placement over the summer months, or even secure full-time employment after their placement has ended.

I found that the balance between the Programming, Maths and Database modules with the Employability & Enterprise and Web Development Modules made for a very interesting and enjoyable course to learn, and received very good support from my tutors was invaluable to me.

Another highly appealing element of the course is the opportunity to gain additional qualifications which are a great addition to any CV. I have achieved a Microsoft Technology Associate(MTA) Certificate in Database Fundamentals, an MTA in Software Development Fundamentals and an NCFE Level 2 in Team Work certificate.

The facilities are excellent, with several teaching rooms dedicated to computing courses which are fully equipped with new computers, as well as all the most up to date versions of the software on each machine. During the introduction to the course we were shown how to download this specialist software onto a PC so we can complete assignments and revision from home. What I had learned at home after each lesson helped me to progress more quickly, and ultimately when examinations came around I had a well-rounded understanding of the functionality of the code I was writing, as opposed to just knowing how to write it.

I felt that the structure of the course was very well explained from the outset, and it was clear to me that this course was going to provide me with some amazing opportunities, and I would encourage those starting this course to take up all of the many opportunities that it offers.

I completed my 15-week placement with IT firm Civica NI which provides a wide range of solutions for the public and regulated private sector markets, such as digital solutions, cloud software and managed services. My placement was a brilliant experience and I had the opportunity to work with multiple teams working on different projects. I worked as a Software Tester whilst on my placement, so I had a lot of responsibility, and from the first day I was made to feel like an important member of the team. The work based learning element of the course is invaluable and allows you to put into practice what you have learned in the classroom, and apply and build upon this knowledge every day. I was also offered great opportunities through their role as Ambassadors with the Bring IT On programme; visiting schools to talk with pupils, parents and teachers about studying IT subjects, and what a career in IT could look like for them. This opportunity of engaging with schools really enriched my placement and made me realise what a great course the Foundation Degree in Software Engineering is for anyone who is looking to pursue a career in IT.

This Foundation Degree course has been a crucial step forward in my career path, as I have made many connections academically as well as within the IT industry. This will help to guide me over the coming years as I embark on starting my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Information Technology. I’m delighted that I can continue working for Civica NI over the summer months, as my placement has been extended. I am now continuing to work as an Ambassador through the Bring IT On programme to promote the opportunities within the IT sector in Northern Ireland and the various career pathways to school students.

Find out more about the Foundation Degree in Software Engineering here.

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