Lego robots and Raspberry Pi: Youth employment minister welcomed to the world of BT’s rising software stars

Scotland’s Minister for Youth Employment had a close encounter with a Lego robot when she met BT apprentices and graduates working in digital technologies in Glasgow today (Monday). 

Angela Constance’s visit to BT’s Software Development Centre in Glasgow marked the start of “Make Young People Your Business in Digital Technologies” Week (7-14 March). 
The Minister met four modern apprentices and four graduates taken on since last autumn by the centre, one of six BT facilities specialising in software development around the world. 

BT has recruited around 25 apprentices and graduates into its Glasgow software development centre in the last two years and has just begun a recruitment process to identify more candidates. The company recently announced plans to hire around 60 apprentices and graduates in Scotland, with most of the new posts expected to be based in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Ms Constance said: “This week I am highlighting the benefits of taking on enthusiastic, driven young people to employers in Scotland’s ICT and digital technologies sector. BT is a good example of a company that recognises the need to ‘grow your own’ and the longer term benefits of making young people their business. I was delighted with BT’s plans to take on 60 apprentices and graduates in Scotland and look forward to meeting some of their current crop and seeing their working environment.” 

Several of BT’s software graduates and apprentices work with local schools, as ambassadors with the SCDI’s Young Engineer and Science Clubs, to get pupils thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. During the visit the Minister investigated one of the props they use – a Lego robot which pupils build and programme to follow commands. 

The graduates and apprentices also demonstrated the use of Raspberry Pi – cheap, credit-card sized computers which can be programmed to perform all sorts of tasks, such as controlling home energy use by switching devices on and off – and software currently being developed in Glasgow to help cooling and reduce energy use in data centres. 

The apprentices and graduates are working in software development areas including energy and carbon management, IT systems integration and reliability and mobile applications for services like BT Wi-fi and BT Sport. Apprentices study for a foundation degree in ICT as part of their three-year programme. 

Lyndsay Waugh, 23, from Erskine in Renfrewshire, gave up a two-year career as a nursery nurse to join BT as an apprentice software engineer in September. 

She said: “I was interested in Physics, Music and Maths at school and was fascinated with technology but I thought that females couldn’t be engineers. 

“I loved working as a nursery nurse but I wanted more of a challenge and to learn something new. For me the BT Apprenticeship Scheme was an amazing opportunity as it allowed me to work full time as well as study for my degree. 

“I was nervous that my application wouldn’t be considered as I thought I was older than most apprentices and I had no software engineering experience. The interviewers could see past this and focused on my skills which could be used in the workplace rather than knowledge which could be learned later. 

“Changing career has been an amazing stepping stone. It’s ok if you make the wrong career decision when you leave school. There are always other possibilities. I’m really excited about my career prospects at BT and I’d highly recommend that young people consider apprenticeships as well as university as the opportunities are endless.” 

Marie McLaughlin, 25, from Glasgow, joined BT six months ago on its Software Engineering Graduate program, following a year working as a business analyst. At school she excelled in English and Computing, so she completed a degree in English Literature and Philosophy before embarking on a Masters in IT. 

Marie said: “I was advised you had to choose to be technical or artistic, and that the two don’t mix. Once I got a bit older I realised that was completely false; communicating effectively and being creative are as important in a technical role as they are in any other position. 

“I was drawn to BT as they recognised what I could contribute from my education and experience. It was clear there would be lots of opportunity to develop and talented people to learn from. I have always said that I wanted a career, not just a job, and I think BT is exactly the kind of company where that is possible and where commitment is valued.”