Going to university isn’t the only option – an apprenticeship, where you can earn while you learn, could be the way forward. Claire Penketh, from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has more.
“What I really like is the variety of the work itself, and also meeting such a wide range of people at major events,” says 20-year-old Cameron Warwick. He’s a junior technical engineer for Etherlive, a company that has the exciting task of designing, implementing and supporting IT at major events throughout Europe.
He’s had a busy couple of months at The Royal Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Windsor Horse Show and WOMAD, the world music festival.
Cameron started his apprenticeship just over a year ago, and it’s a career path that is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to university. Apprenticeships combine work and study by mixing on-and-off-the-job training – and you get paid.
There’s a wide range of digital degree apprenticeships available too, covering AI, digital design, cyber and data science, and many others.
Working for Etherlive, based in Wiltshire with offices in London and Glasgow, Cameron rarely has a dull moment but he concedes that a career in the digital industries is not usually seen as fun: “IT has a bit of an image problem,” he says, “as people think it’s all about working in offices with your head down, but for me that’s definitely not the case.”
Last month at WOMAD for instance, Cameron’s job included being hoisted up high on a cherry picker to position cameras for the CCTV network and being part of the team setting up a live video conference link with NASA and CERN from the festival’s Physics Tent.
There are always all sorts of logistics for the Etherlive team to overcome, from installing miles of optical fibre and network cables through to battling the vagaries of the British summer weather, but Cameron says he likes a challenge: “I have learnt so much in a very short space of time. For me an apprenticeship was my choice and it’s proved to be the right path for me.”
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT backs apprenticeships as a route into the digital industries, where there is a considerable shortage of skilled workers. Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at BCS says:“As well as being employed and following a structured training programme, apprentices can be confident they learn the skills and knowledge critical in the workplace, because the design of apprenticeships are employer-led.”
Annette says this approach works well because it’s based in the real world: “Apprenticeships are a partnership between the apprentice, employer and usually an external training provider such as an independent company, college or university.
“Between them they will agree a training and development plan that enables the apprentice to meet the required knowledge and skills and ensures they can put that into practice in the workplace.”
At the end of a digital apprenticeship, employers can be confident about what the apprentice has achieved during their training says Annette: “In the final stage of the apprentice journey, they take part in an end-point assessment, which helps check that they have met the required standard.”
BCS is registered to undertake the end-point assessment of level 3 and 4 digital apprenticeships.There are thousands more examples, like Cameron’s,of people thriving in interesting and well-paid IT and digital careers because of their apprenticeship.