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Case Study: IT Support in Financial Services

After leaving school, aspiring IT professional Andrew Naughton chose to take an apprenticeship instead of going to University.

Since successfully completing a CompTIA A+ Certification, he has gone on to secure a job offering IT support at a prestigious financial services consultancy firm, Cordium.

We spoke to Andrew to find out why he chose the path he did and how it's helped him in the financial world.

What inspired you to take an apprenticeship instead of going to University?

While at school, I knew I had an interest in technology and that I wanted to work in the digital economy. When considering whether to go to University, I discovered that I could ‘earn and learn’ at the same time and progress through a paid job much more quickly by taking an apprenticeship. Furthermore, I was glad I wouldn’t be saddled with debt for the rest of my life.

I also liked the fact that I could supplement my academic qualifications with hands-on practical experience so that I could have a more well-rounded CV than a typical university graduate.

Crucially, the wage progression in IT is slower than professions such as law, which means computing graduates will take longer to pay off their loans, having waited three years to get a job in the first place. With this in mind, I signed up with apprenticeship training provider Just IT.

What made you choose a vocational qualification over a degree?

In Britain, people often think vocational qualifications are inferior to degrees, but they have several advantages.

Vocational qualifications are actually created by and for industry rather than by academics, so they teach you the skills that are most relevant and in-demand. Crucially, because they are created and continuously updated with input from employers, they cover the very latest technologies giving apprentices up-to-date knowledge of the latest tools used by real-world employers and customers. Degrees by contrast, are not as frequently updated which means that sometimes you end up learning outdated skills which are not as relevant to modern companies. In a world in which technology is changing at such a fast pace, having the most up-to-date skills and knowledge is a crucial differentiator in a job interview.

Vocational qualifications by multinational companies and trade associations are also globally recognised, whereas not every University is globally recognised. I have just returned from New York and all the American IT employers know about and respected the CompTIA A+ certification because it was created by a trade association with members across the globe including IBM, Microsoft, Dell and Intel. This means that my qualification give me a good chance of getting a job no matter where I live in the future.

What was your experience of taking an apprenticeship?

I was immediately trained across different sections of the Just IT college and learned something new every week. I found it great to be doing something practical and hands-on, rather than just reading learning materials. An apprenticeship means you can both learn and apply that knowledge in a real-world scenario.  This practical element to an apprenticeship gives you an advantage even over computing graduates; during my trip to New York to train and support a computing degree graduate. On paper, he was more qualified than me, but there is no substitute for the practical skill an apprenticeship gives you.

Even the exams had a practical element; to study for my CompTIA A+ Certification, I had to deconstruct a computer and then learn all of the internal components and what role they played in getting the machine to function. The amount that I learned during the apprenticeship enabled me to pass my exams with flying colours and win a CompTIA Best Score at the national Just IT Awards.

An apprenticeship is both very challenging and very rewarding, as apprentices have to combine a daytime job with academic study. You can’t go partying every night of the week like a Freshers’ Year student, because you have a real day job with real responsibilities and then you have to spend the evening revising for exams! The extra responsibility means that you develop much faster, both as a professional and as a person.Now I have a full-time job as a Help Desk Technician doing first and second-line IT support for Cordium.