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Can I start an Apprenticeship (much) later in life?

John Hasznosi
6 Mar 2023

I’m 47 years old. Before I started applying for software developer jobs a few years ago, I went online and searched the topic of ‘can you become a software developer in your 40’s?’ just to see how common it was. Surely there must be some of us older folks out there, I’d hoped. I had no idea just how common it was.

Now that I’ve landed my first developer role, I’d like to share my experience. This is only because someone, somewhere out there, may be at that point in their life where they still have doubts.

The initial process of starting my apprenticeship was not unlike most other job hunts, although in my case there was a fair amount of pre-training involved. Before I seriously started applying for junior developer roles, I’d taken a 4-month intensive coding bootcamp and it was a fantastic learning experience. It was through this bootcamp that I’d seen posts about current apprenticeships and came across Capgemini. Just to note that you don’t need to have training or a computer science degree before becoming an apprentice. I have co-workers at Capgemini that had never coded before starting their software developer roles. So, if you’re worried that you don’t have any experience in this area, don’t be. As I was told in my initial interview, Capgemini (as well as a growing number of tech companies) looks to fill developer roles with people that have strong soft skills. Coding ability can be trained. Soft skills and life experience? Much less so.

Let me back up my claim a bit with something a bit more concrete. You at least know the basics of using a computer. You can type on a keyboard. You can communicate with others, in a common language, using fairly accurate grammar and syntax. These are powerful skills. Coding isn’t all that different. They’re called ‘languages’ for a reason. The only other thing you really need to do is to want it.

I started work at an early age. Over nearly half a century, I’ve been a dishwasher, telemarketer, takeaway assistant, UPS warehouse worker, bartender, waiter, public school teacher, university instructor – the list goes on. Most of the time, I worked in these places just to pay the bills. But in many cases, I did whatever job it was purely out of interest. I was curious. I wanted to learn something new. And I did.

In my previous career of 20+ years, the ‘real’ one, I was an English teacher. I taught foreign students both abroad and at home for a very long time. Then I decided I wanted to get into coding. It wasn’t a sudden decision. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to be a programmer by tomorrow afternoon’. It was a slow process. In retrospect, I wish I would have made the decision sooner in life. But then again, would I have learned all the same skills that I have now? Probably not. In fact, during my initial interviews for my current software developer job, I was told that the ‘other’ experience I had contributed to my hiring. If you haven’t heard this before, I’m sure you will the more you talk to recruiters and senior developers. “We can teach you to code. We can’t teach life skills.”

If you’re over 40, 50, 60 or whatever, can you start an apprenticeship that late in life? Should you? I said earlier that all you really needed was to want it. It was the truth. Wanting it means you’re willing to put the work in. Wanting it means, despite the doubt, you won’t let it get in the way. Your want needs to trump all of it. It needs to be stronger than your own misgivings. However, you’ll persevere, and even after you start your role as a developer, there will be times when you feel like you’re just not cut out for it.

If you’re thinking of taking that first leap, maybe signing up for that new programming course or applying to that tech role or looking at a coding bootcamp, just remember: it doesn’t matter where you’re at in life, or what you have or haven’t done before. And it most certainly doesn’t matter how old you are. All that really matters is taking that first step.

There’s nothing particularly special about me. I’m about as average a person as they come. It took me over 600 applications to land my first developer role. But if I can do it, you definitely can too.

John Hasznosi

Junior Developer at Capgemini
John is a Junior Software Engineer at Capgemini. His previous career for over twenty years was in education, where he taught foreign students English both in the UK and abroad. Born and raised in the UK until his early teens, John later moved to Canada and attended high school and university in Vancouver, earning his BA in psychology at the University of British Columbia. He has more recently returned to the UK to begin a new career in software development.