National Apprenticeship Week - Rob O’Connor, Accenture

I’m currently six months away from graduating with a BSc in digital and technology solutions, as part of my degree apprenticeship with Accenture. An exciting prospect as it’s the culmination of a few years of hard work, combining studying with on the job learning within Accenture’s Technology practice.

It’s been challenging but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Although if you’d told me four years ago that this is where I’d be now I might not have believed it. I’d grown up in Ireland on an estate where crime was rife. I’m lucky to have a very supportive family but the stress of that environment really affected me, and I ended up leaving school with few qualifications. 

I felt directionless and ended up being unemployed for three years, not really caring about my future. However, turning 21 served as a wake-up call for me. My mindset changed, and I knew I had to do something with my life. I started searching online for potential careers and I happened to notice that there were a lot of adverts for software engineers - and it seemed to be quite a lucrative career. But I wondered how I could ever be successful in a job like that?

However, I knew I had to push myself. I started researching what being a software engineer involved and began to learn programming from online tutorials. I also stumbled across a link to Movement to Work, a charity with employer members who sign up to offer work placements to unemployed young people. Movement to Work got me on a three-week work placement at Accenture and I immediately knew, “This is my shot at proving I am capable of this kind of work, I’m going to make this happen.”

I treated the experience like a three-week job interview, and at the end I was offered the opportunity to apply for Accenture’s apprenticeship programme. By this point my confidence levels were high – I’d found I had a passion for technology and I’d learnt so much from the placement. Securing the apprenticeship was a major turning point.

Since then, I’ve gained some invaluable skills and experience, and I feel a real sense of purpose in my work. For example, when working with the voice assistant Alexa I had the opportunity to trial an artificial intelligence platform we’d developed with older people in care homes, helping to ensure the technology made their lives easier when it came to tasks such as liaising with carers and making medical appointments.

Technology’s ability to impact people’s lives is what makes it exciting for me, and I’m planning a career as an artificial intelligence programmer. I’m looking forward to deepening my skills and I also have an ambition to work in one of Accenture’s overseas offices one day.

Now I’m passionate about helping other young people to realise their ambitions. There are employers out there who just want to find the best talent regardless of your background, and an apprenticeship can be a great route into the workplace for anyone with drive and potential. For me, it was an opportunity to challenge myself to improve my situation, and I’m confident that it has set me on the path to a better future.


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