Chelsea Dryden – From GCSE to Work

Written on: 1st August 2017
Written by:Amanda McCombie

Chelsea Dryden is a Junior Software Tester at NCFE and is a former Baltic Apprentice of the Year. Read her story, originally written by Chelsea for NCFE.


When my exams came to an end, I knew I wanted to go straight into a working environment. I think this was because I wanted hands on experience and I wanted to go into a specified role. The thought of sitting in a classroom every day for the next two years didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to have the same qualifications as everyone else, as after two years there would be no distinguishing between students who have A levels but no work experience. However, I was a bit worried about not having A levels which I thought would set me back. With this in mind wanting further qualifications and work experience, the best option for me was to find an apprenticeship.

When it was getting closer to finishing my exams I started to look online for apprenticeships not really knowing what I wanted to do exactly. I narrowed it down to IT because I thought this is something I want to learn when looking at careers and also it wasn’t a subject I did in school but interested me. With this interest I applied for a lot of IT apprenticeships.

A few weeks later I got a text from a Baltic Training Services saying they had a 15 week IT boot-camp in my area. I thought I’d go to the introduction to check out what this boot-camp was all about. I came out of the introduction meeting knowing that the boot-camp was something I wanted to do and I would hear back if I got a chance to go for an interview. A week later I got a phone call saying I could go for an interview at NCFE for the boot-camp. At this point I was worried that with the experience and no IT qualifications it might hold me back. I was told that the boot-camp was for people with a keen interest and qualifications wasn’t a big factor as this is something I will learn. I was successful in getting a place on the boot-camp with 8 others.

The boot-camp was held at NCFE and me and the other learners were trained by Baltic Training. It was a big leap to go onto a boot-camp with 8 other new people. I was the only girl and the youngest in the boot-camp. At the start I thought this would be intimidating but when I got to know everyone it was great. When we signed up for this boot-camp we knew there was going to be roles for development, testing, infrastructure and social media. At the end of the boot-camp we had the chance to get interviewed for up to two roles.

The interview process for the apprentice roles lasted 2 days. Once the interviews were over, we found out on the second day who had been successful and who had what role. I managed to get the software tester role which I was ecstatic about. After this the learners who didn’t manage to get a role, NCFE and Baltic Training supported them in finding an apprenticeship elsewhere, where they could do the Level 3 diploma and get work experience.

When boot-camp was finished I started my own Level 3 apprenticeship at NCFE. Straight away I was sat with the test team learning business and technical knowledge. A couple of months later when I had some experience I was sat with the Test Analyst to see how coding helps testers and was trusted enough to be allowed to try some myself. Being put on one of the biggest projects at the time really pushed me to get involved and do my best to help out whilst learning.

At the end of my Level 3 apprenticeship a year later, December 2015, I was recognised by Baltic Training as Apprentice of the Year, and then I was offered a Junior Tester role at NCFE. At the end of my level 3, Baltic Training offered me to take on the level 4. When Baltic first asked I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be capable and I thought it could get in the way of my Software Testing role. When I started thinking about it and talking to others, I soon realised that the Software Development course would really help me in my role and that I was capable in succeeding.

Coming into the working environment has given me a massive boost of confidence. I now feel like I can do more independently than I could when I was in school. I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything I have done to get to this position from school. I’m now in the work place with experience and a real career with options for the future. I would totally recommend an apprenticeship to anyone looking to get hands on experience whilst still learning.

Written by Chelsea Dryden, Junior Software Tester at NCFE.

Originally posted on NCFE