An Apprenticeship in the Field of Information Technology

Stefanie Jahnke shares her experience from a six-week tech internship

By Stefanie Jahnke

PostgreSQL, MySQL, Java, PHP, HTML, CSS — these terms are not unfamiliar to you? You’ve been programming for as long as you can remember? Technology has always interested and inspired you? Then you’ve almost certainly already thought about the possibility of pursuing a career in IT. But even if you’ve never heard of the terms listed above and you only use your computer for surfing and social media, it’s still well worth taking a closer look at this particular profession.

Around three years ago, I took a little time to investigate job postings for apprenticeships. In the process, I encountered a number of offers in the IT field and was particularly attracted to an apprenticeship as an IT specialist for application development. Why? It involved an occupation that promises good prospects for the future. The IT sector is growing rapidly. The demand for good skilled personnel is constantly on the rise. It’s especially in this sector that an apprenticeship can offer advantages when compared to university studies, as participants not only learn things in vocational school during the three-year training period — they also get the chance to work alongside others within the company itself. This makes it possible to gather tons of practical experience in a real everyday work environment, something that many university graduates are often missing.

This perspective piqued my interest in undertaking an apprenticeship. The only problem: I had never programmed before, I’d opted out of Information Technology curriculum in school and I’d never really thought about how a website was constructed or how one works.

In spite of all that, I still sent out applications and even got invited to several interviews to boot. Of course, I made an effort to acquire at least some basic knowledge beforehand, although that rarely really helped me in the interviews themselves. The task of examining and interpreting a bit of code in a random programming language can quickly prove to be impossible for an absolute beginner. Of course employers prefer to have employees who know a little something about their work. All the same, perhaps this rule should not be applied with the same intensity to applicants for apprenticeships. For, in the end, these applicants are applying for the chance to learn something.

At Project A, the interview played out a bit differently though and the decision that was made in the end was also a different one. Not a yes or a no, but the prospect of an internship instead, in order to be able first of all to figure out whether all involved could get on with each other well — the colleagues and I, Project A and I and programming and I.

And how did I spend this six-week internship?

I took my first steps with Java. I outputted “Hello World” for the first time, solved the first tasks with small programmes, got upset for the first time because the code wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and I realized that I was having loads of fun with the whole thing. This strengthened my hunch that pursuing an apprenticeship as an IT specialist for application development was a great idea in my case. Fortunately, Project A saw it pretty much the same way and when my internship came to an end I was offered a contract for an apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship began in September and from that point on I alternated between two weeks at work and one week in vocational school.

Various subjects were covered in vocational school. In addition to IT specific topics, classes especially tended to treat topics related to business and economics. On top of that, a lot of emphasis was placed on developing team work and communication skills. Although especially the subjects of application systems and information technology systems were taught in a very practice-oriented fashion, there were few opportunities to apply this knowledge in the actual work world. The subject “application system” is really a synonym for programming. In this class, they introduced us to one particular programming language (C# in my case) and taught us how to get started using it. The subject information technology systems concentrated rather heavily on the hardware side and dealt with the construction of computers and networks for example. The business-oriented subjects dealt with the rights of employers and apprentices, commercial law and a number of economic calculations. The things I had learned back in school almost exclusively only came in handy when it was time to take a test or the final examination. The topics which are relevant for later work life were covered during the time spent actually working in the company. These included for instance coding style, particular approaches to solving problems, deployment and documentation, as well as working with various frameworks.

At Project A, there’s also the added fact that apprentices work in various projects and departments during their apprenticeships. This allows them to gain solid insight into the most diverse areas of the IT sector.

The apprenticeship was concluded with a final project, a presentation and a written exam. I completed these in the summer of 2015 and have since then already been working for a number of months as a Junior Java Developer at Project A.

My decision to apply for an apprenticeship in the field of IT and the opportunity that Project A offered me have opened up an exciting career path to me, one which can develop from here in a number of different directions and one which I can heartily recommend to everyone.