This week (February 5th-11th) is National Apprenticeship Week, which each year provides a chance for organisations to showcase their opportunities for young people.

One of the UK games industry’s best known apprenticeship programmes is the Sumo Digital Academy. Here we put the spotlight on the initiative…

Since it was founded in 2003, Sumo Digital has always been passionate about creating opportunities for people to find their home in games and, in 2021, launched the Sumo Digital Academy – a talent development programme creating new pathways into the games industry. The Academy opens doors to graduates looking for their first career move into games, those skilled in other industries, people seeking a career change and is helping to address known skills-gap and representation issues within the games industry.

Led by former game programming lecturer, Dr Jacob Habgood, the Academy focuses on game programming and software development, and was the first in the UK games industry to be recognised by the Government and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. 

The Sumo Digital Academy is home to two programmes: the Level 7 Game Programmer Apprenticeship – which provides hands-on experience, and expert lectures and training – and the Diversity Internship Training Programme, which provides people from under-represented groups paid training and mentoring in games programming for them to discover what it would be like as a career.

The Apprenticeship runs between 18-24 months, during which time the cohort receives training, takes part in workshops and sessions delivered by experts across Sumo’s studios and works on games that can be purchased globally – including Zool: Redimensioned which released in 2021 on PC and, a year later, PlayStation 4. Meanwhile, the Diversity Internship Training Programme is a launchpad programme for people from underrepresented groups including women and/or marginalised genders, ethnic minorities, neurodiverse or a different disability, and runs for six weeks each September to provide training and support in C++, first-hand time with game programmers about their roles and a comprehensive insight into games programming as a career.

While on the programme, apprentices have the opportunity to collaborate with studios on placements in a safe and secure environment – as well as enjoying the benefits of Sumo’s learning & development initiatives and events such as the Sumo Developer Conference, SDCXtra, and more. It has proved effective for graduates who have gone straight into employment after completing the programme, which so far has predominantly seen graduates joining their work placement studios.

Since launching in 2021, the Sumo Digital Academy has successfully trained over 30 people, the majority of whom have gone on to secure permanent roles in Sumo’s studios, including Red Kite Games, Sumo Sheffield and The Chinese Room. In addition, 2023 saw the Sumo Digital Academy recognised at the National Apprenticeship Awards for its contributions to education in partnership with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

The Academy is delighted to have just welcomed its fourth cohort of Programming Apprentices who will be taught by Dr Habgood and George Allan, and is expanding its offering with an all-new Technical Artist Programme. Led by Dave Wilson, this cohort will learn the vital skills required to join the next generation of skilled technical artists, and potentially go onto to work within Sumo’s family of studios, or further afield in the games industry.

Also new for 2024, the Academy has welcomed its Shadow Apprentice, Holly, who will be studying and engaging in the same projects as the current cohort – documenting the entire process in regular videos to give an inside look into what it’s like to be an apprentice to inspire future applicants to start their programming journey with Sumo.

For more information on the Sumo Digital Academy click here –

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