Heriot-Watt University: Multiple success for Graduate Apprentice

This week saw the graduation of our first cohort of Software Development graduate apprentices. This landmark moment included a group of apprentices from one of our key employer partners – aerospace engineering company Leonardo. And one of these students, in particular, has had more than one reason to celebrate.

Michael Coleman, from East Lothian has not only graduated with First Class Honours, he has also had his achievements as an apprentice recognised at a national level by his employer, Leonardo.

First of all Michael won the Graduate Apprentice of the Year for Scotland 2021. He then went on to be awarded the UK Graduate Apprentice of the Year. In this UK-wide award Michael was up against graduate apprentices from Leonardo’s six other sites in the UK.

Billy Barrowman, Edinburgh Apprentice Training Officer, describes why Michael won this national recognition: “Michael was selected as the UK Apprentice of the Year 2021 for his outstanding contribution to our Apprentice Programme. Michael demonstrated a passion for his programme, constantly challenging himself to improve his software skills and ensure his academic work was of the highest standard. Michael also represented the company at a variety of STEM, enrichment and recruitment events, always promoting the merits of apprentice programmes. He has mentored and supported others, giving up much of his own time to develop the skills and behaviours of younger apprentices. Achieving a first class honours degree was a fantastic achievement and extremely well deserved for all his efforts.”

However, Michael’s GA journey wasn’t all plain sailing, as he explains: “In my first year, I found it a challenge to balance my university studies and my daily role. Perseverance partly solved these issues, but talking with Leonardo and Heriot-Watt about the challenges I faced helped greatly. One project that has stood out was my second-year industrial project. I struggled a lot with Object-Oriented Design (OOD). After bringing this up, Leonardo created an inhouse OOD programme. Ultimately, the project was a great success, and I felt proud of implementing a large project that was entirely OOD. It wasn’t just the software experience I gained that made this such a positive experience, but also the chance to lead a project.”

Ultimately Michael’s GA journey was hugely productive and he recommends other people look at the opportunities a Graduate Apprenticeship can bring: “There’s no shame in trying out the GA programme and deciding it’s not for you. I am so happy now that I got his opportunity and have enjoyed this experience overall; it was the best option for me. The courses have been fantastic and exciting to learn and helped develop employable skills. Another piece of advice I’d give is GET INVOLVED!”

After successfully completing his BSc (Hons) Software Development for Business, Michael has been promoted to a Software Engineer position at Leonardo in MW, Edinburgh.

Dr. Santiago Chumbe, Michael’s Academic Tutor at Heriot-Watt, reflects on Michael’s time at the University, he said: “Michael is a remarkable role model for all our students. His interest in our programme, hard work, proactive and supportive attitude greatly contributed to the success of our academic year. He has been the best Class Representative in 2020-2021. He took the initiative to periodically discuss course issues with every stakeholder. Since joining university, he contributed to resolve issues early and opportunely, earning the respect and appreciation of his peers and instructors. What really stands out from Michael’s character is his willingness to generously give his time to others. For example, he took on the task of being a mentor for two of our junior students, who were struggling with self-motivation and needed friendly support and advice. He helped them to successfully pass their resit exams.”

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