This July, it’s a bit of a celebration for us. Our first Earn as you Learn (EAYL) student from the scheme’s launch year is about to graduate with a degree and a full time job – and no student loans!

Our Earn as you Learn scheme, delivered in partnership with Ulster University, offers the best of all worlds: real world experience, a real salary with a real job and a degree in Computing Systems at the end of it. All while avoiding tuition fees and student loans!

We caught up with Leah Fullerton, Trainee Software Engineer with Kainos, to reflect on her thoughts on the scheme now it’s almost over, and her tips for future Earn as you Learn students.

What were you planning to do if you hadn’t signed up for EAYL?

I had just finished my Foundation Degree in Software Engineering, and my next step was to go to University. I was planning on going to university full-time, and I had been offered a place on the Software Engineering and Computer Science at University of Ulster. Then I realised I could get experience and go to university at the same time. That’s why I applied for the EAYL scheme.

Had you ever been for interview before?

I had a part time retail job while at school and throughout completing my foundation degree, but I had never been to an interview for a software company or an engineering job! So I was really nervous about it – but I managed to hold it together, and prepared for the interview enough to be offered a position on the scheme.

How did your colleagues react to you?

When I first joined Kainos I was placed in the Evolve team – this is our medical record software product. I think I was surprised about how helpful everyone was. Before I joined Kainos I had no industry experience, and I was a bit nervous about starting something completely new to me.

Everyone was so nice and always had time to help me. Everyone realised I had no previous experience, so they had a lot patience taking me through things and answering my questions.

What about the support you’ve been given at Kainos?

The support I have been given in Kainos has been great, especially in Evolve. From when I joined I have progressed from Apprentice to Associate level in Evolve – and I think this shows how supportive the people in my business unit are, I have been given the same opportunities as any other employee. I was expecting people to be “too busy” to help, and I was totally wrong. Everyone was so nice and always willing to help. I was expecting a role in IT to be extremely pressurized, and although it is at times, it has been a lot more enjoyable than I expected!

Working while studying has given me so much experience and this has really helped me throughout my degree. I’m always learning something new and continue to gain knowledge in new areas, everyone in the Evolve project are great and I really enjoy working with them.

Have you traveled much with the role?

I have traveled quite a few times, being part of the Evolve support team, some travelling is required. Our customers are based in the UK, and when they are going live they sometimes require on-site support which I have taken part in.

Any ‘out-there’ experiences?

I haven’t presented much as part of my role, but I was thrown in at the deep end by being asked to take part in the Annual Company Kick-Off, which went really well!

Any tips for young people hoping to break into tech?

I would definitely suggest applying for an apprentice style scheme like the EAYL, I think the experience you get alongside competing a degree is really valuable. The real-life experience has definitely helped me throughout my degree – it makes it a lot easier to apply the theory to real-life situations.

What’s next?

I’m currently waiting on my results, which are out this week! Now that I’ve completed the EAYL scheme I hope to continue learning more in Kainos, and hopefully continue furthering my career in Evolve.  I’m also enjoying having a lot more free time  🙂

Find out more about Earn as you Learn in this video. Applications open in Spring!