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Apprenticeship allows mature student to pursue career change

News | 7 February 2024

A mature student from Cardiff has explained how discovering an apprenticeship later in life gave him the courage to quit his job as a vehicle repair painter and follow a dream of working in data science.

Photo of Daniel Coles
Daniel Coles

Daniel Coles, 34, from Splott, Cardiff, who is currently in his second year on Cardiff Metropolitan University’s BSc Applied Data Science Apprenticeship Degree, shared his story during National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February). Prior to starting the course, he had a full-time job working as a vehicle refinishing technician.

Daniel said: “In my previous job I didn’t have many opportunities to learn new skills, the job just wasn’t challenging me anymore which made me take a step back and think about what I wanted to do in the future. I’ve always been interested in computers and maths and enjoy learning new things. In particular, I wanted to learn to program and code – so data science felt like a good fit.

“I now work four days a week with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Data Science Campus, and attend university in person one day a week. During breaks from university, I’m allowed my day as an individual learning day, or I’ll join another team in work to get insights into other projects and workstreams.

“I’m enjoying the apprenticeship a lot. Initially having no coding experience and it being over 15 years since I’d properly used maths in school meant it was a struggle. But after a few months of using the programmes day to day, you get used to thinking in steps, and it gets easier. The course covers a wide range of subjects and is very interesting. Writing is my biggest struggle since I’ve never written academically before, but the lecturers and other students are always there to bounce questions off.”

After he finishes his course, Daniel would like to continue to work for the ONS in the Data Science Campus across a large portfolio of work where he’d be using lots of new data science techniques.

He continued: “I can’t recommend the apprenticeship enough. You’ll meet a lot of other students, with a few starting from scratch like me. The course is fun and you’ll make a lot of friends, get to see how different bodies and companies work, and what software they prefer and the pros and cons of each.

“You’ll be an apprentice, you’re there to learn, so don’t stress when you don’t know something – that’s the point. Everything builds upon the last lesson. The part I enjoy the most is the not knowing and learning new things.”

Neil Hennessy, Head of Open Colleges and Degree Apprenticeships at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “The degree apprenticeship offering is a unique and valuable experience for a variety of employee-learners. This bespoke cohort ranges from those who may already have significant experience in full-time employment without having gained an academic qualification, to those looking for a new career pathway, including people who have recently finished formal schooling and are looking for opportunities to earn and learn. Such a diverse cohort of apprentices only enhances the learning experience at Cardiff Met.”

Further information on the Degree Apprenticeships available at Cardiff Met Uni are available on the website.