Matthew Graham turned to a Degree Apprenticeship when he needed to further strengthen his knowledge and experience as a software developer on major heath projects for the NHS.

For the last 11 years Matthew has seen his career grow with the NHS Business Services Authority from a data entry job to recently becoming the Lead Software Developer, working on projects such as Brexit, Covid-19 and protecting lives through medicine management.

But the 32-year-old felt with his latest promotion he needed to take a deeper dive into the best software development practices and wanted to learn more.

Matthew wanted to equip himself with the tools to continue creating successful web-based applications for the NHS and last year began an 18-month MSc Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist Degree (Software Engineering) Apprenticeship at the University of Sunderland.

“From the very first module, I’ve been discovering so much, and it’s been so exciting to learn brand new tools,” says Matthew, from Westerhope, Newcastle.

“The motivation behind the degree was really understanding software development and being able to progress and understand the nuts and bolts and know the answer or have the tools to give an answer.”

This week the University of Sunderland is celebrating our apprentices, partners and staff, as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021.

Apprentices like Matthew are employees who spend most of their time in the workplace, supported by dedicated study time with the University.

Learning while working, then applying that learning back into the workplace.

The University is currently working with more than 60 employers across the region, delivering successful higher and degree apprenticeship programmes.

After completing a degree in Chemistry in 2009, finding himself struggling to get work in his field and on Job Seekers’ Allowance as the markets crashed, Matthew eventually secured a data entry job with the NHS 11 years ago, which he believes was a blessing in disguise.

“I have found a passion for software development as I worked my way up, which has now led me back to University all these years later to learn more.”

He added: “I was worried I would be the oldest one on the programme, but actually there is such an interesting mix of people from all ages.

“The lecturers have been very supportive and I’m gaining a good grounding in how to write academic papers.

“The apprenticeship has really opened my eyes to applied qualifications which are hugely useful in the workplace.

“I am going to get a Master’s degree out of it, but the apprenticeship side is fantastic because it’s applied knowledge I can take back into my work with the NHS.”

Professor Alastair Irons, Academic Director of Digital Education at the University of Sunderland, said: “It is great to see Matthew doing so well and using his Degree Apprenticeship learning to enhance the work he is doing in the NHS.

“This is exactly the type of scenario that the programme was designed to address, and I am delighted that Matthew and his employers are benefiting from the programme.”

The University of Sunderland launched its Degree Apprenticeship programme almost four years ago and has established a proven record among a range of clientele, seeing 672 apprentices beginning their programme, in a range of subject areas.