a lot of people tell me college is the way to go,” says Travis Williams, “but given my learning style, working with technology helps me understand it better.
Mr Williams was an apprentice at Virgin O2, one of around 740,400 apprentices across the UK.
For recent graduates who don’t want to — or can’t — go to college, apprenticeships offer an alternative route for many tech companies.
Mr. Williams joined Virgin Media O2 as an apprentice in cybersecurity a year and a half ago. Before that, he got A-levels in computer science and cybersecurity at university, then worked at another university in computer science, mainly supporting the help desk.
Currently, Mr. Williams is responsible for setting up, maintaining and overseeing the security systems at Virgin Media O2, for both network and data center infrastructure. He becomes the point of contact in case of a breakdown in the intrusion prevention system, the network monitoring system to detect unauthorized activity.
“If there’s a problem with that, they’ll come to me or one of my colleagues,” he said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s been exciting to have this experience.”
What is the company looking for in him? “Not someone who has all the answers, but someone who shows interest and is willing to learn as much as possible,” says Williams. “The mention that I’ve been experimenting with [network analysis] tools at home helps show that.”
“The best part about apprenticeships is being able to learn the skills you need and sometimes to be able to apply them in the same day,” he says. “I think college is great, but it will never give you work experience.”
Elsewhere, BAE Systems expects to take on 1,400 apprentices this year. Hollie Keenan left school after GCSE exams and joined BAE Systems Advanced Learning in 2019.
She works at the Barrow-in-Furness Underwater Shipyard. As an associate production engineer, she uses virtual reality headsets to side-check for potential problems before going into production.
She never thought about going to college. “Where I live, it’s all about learning,” she said. “My whole family came [with BAE] through an apprenticeship and went on to do other jobs in the business.”
Apprenticeship is a three and a half year program. Ms. Keenan’s freshman year was spent mostly in college, learning tool skills in electrical, mechanical and pipe shops. During her sophomore year, she spent one day per week at university studying subjects such as materials, health and safety.
Although she has already started her career, she plans to start earning her degree in a few years. “It opens the door for me if I want to go elsewhere,” she said.
IBM is hiring people without degrees to help them recruit a more diverse workforce. Jenny Taylor MBE, the company’s head of original professional programs, said: “There are great people everywhere, but the opportunities aren’t the same for everyone.
“Our customers are very diverse. Why don’t you want to find talent in every possible avenue? »
In an employer survey by skills development organization Generation, 52% of respondents said they struggled to fill beginner technician positions. Whether people join IBM as an apprentice or a fresh graduate, the company is looking for the same transferable skills. “If you’ve ever worked in a bar, you’ll have teamwork, customer-focused and communication skills,” says Taylor. “You will have to deal with difficult people. We care more about people than academic degrees.
In addition to having entry-level programs, IBM has removed degree requirements from many other job listings, so people aren’t at a disadvantage later in their careers.