My year as a Drupal apprentice

I've recently become a front-end developer working at Code Positive. I was lucky enough to get here through the fantastic Drupal Apprenticeship scheme run by Happy Computers in partnership with various Drupal companies (such as Code Positive) located around the country.

What is the Drupal apprenticeship scheme?

The apprenticeship scheme that I was part of is a government-funded apprenticeship in which we had a mixture of work placement and training, working towards a Level 4 apprentice qualification from the Tech Partnership.

The main part of the apprenticeship was my work placement at Code Positive, with a training day twice a month at Happy Computers. Alongside my work I had to keep a blog detailing things I was learning throughout the year, such as Agile methodology and how to create custom TWIG templates.

We each also had a project site that we had to complete in Drupal 8. This project spanned the year and involved everything from impact mapping and user stories to site building, theming and custom development.

Before the apprenticeship

Before the apprenticeship I worked in a post office. I had taught myself HTML and CSS through messing around with code in a text editor and using free online resources such as Code Academy, which progressed to learning some Wordpress theming using the Bootstrap framework.

I wanted to become a web developer but lacked the experience and confidence to get my foot on the career ladder.

How I got started

I heard about the apprenticeship scheme through an advert on a job hunting website. Once I'd applied I was contacted by Sheena at Happy Computers and enrolled onto a two week bootcamp in a class of about eight people. There we first learnt the basics of building a website with Drupal then did a deep dive into things like contextual filters on Views.

Members of the Drupal community also came in and mentored us throughout the process, sharing their stories and giving us advice. By the end of the bootcamp we had each created a Drupal 7 site that fulfilled a fictional client's brief. A number of Drupal agencies then interviewed select candidates to take on for the actual apprenticeship.

What I've learnt

From pretty near the beginning of my apprenticeship I was able to start working on billable work and be part of the development team. I've worked on things like automatically generating and adding ical files to an events content type, and adding Google rich snippets to pages depending on their paths.

As well as technical skills such as coding and working with Drupal, I've learnt a lot about working as part of a development team. For instance I've taken part in meetings where we've been organising sprints and writing out user stories for tasks.

One of my primary responsibilities has been as First Line Support for one of our large clients. During this I've answered technical questions, fixed bugs and implemented small changes to their site as hotfixes.

Part of my First Line Support role was also to refine our tech support process, which involved optimising our support workflow, streamlining how we use our support software, and improving the monthly report we send clients detailing the budget breakdown and support and maintenance tasks that have taken place durring the month.

What's next?

Now that my apprenticeship has finished I've been taken on as a front-end web developer at Code Positive. I've started working more on theming in Drupal 8. I'm also looking to expand my knowledge of front-end technologies such as animating SVG and using JavaScript to make pages more dynamic.

The apprenticeship scheme has been great for me and I really recommend applying if you want to start a career in web development.