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Could an apprenticeship be your next move?

By Beth O’Neill, More Fire PR.

Thinking about your first steps when it comes to starting a career is never easy, and now in a post-Brexit, COVID-19 economy young people are facing harder choices than ever before.

How apprenticeships work

But what is an apprenticeship? In short it combines on the job training with studying – typically one day a week – in which you work towards a work-based qualification, ranging from GCSEs or equivalent, all the way up to degree level.

An apprenticeship can take between one and four years to complete and, unlike a typical university pathway offers the best of both worlds – the ability to earn an income, while also gaining a qualification and learning the practical skills needed for a specific job.

If a traditional career route or standard university experience doesn’t seem quite right for you, then an apprenticeship could be exactly what you’re looking for.

I spoke to Lauren Brayfield, a former Sharnbrook Academy in Bedfordshire student, who felt that university wasn’t quite what she wanted. After researching different ways into becoming an accountant, Lauren found her perfect apprenticeship by searching GOV website in the run up to completing her GCSE’s.

Lauren explains: “The whole process was very straightforward, I registered with a specialist apprenticeship training provider whose task it is to help me find a job in an organisation. She recommended me to my eventual employer and I got the job almost immediately!”

After three years, Lauren has completed Levels 3 and 4 of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Qualification, and feels much further along with her career than she believes she would have been if she had chosen to study at university and then looked for work.

“I gained so many skills in addition to my technical studies,” she says. “I learnt about structure, organisation, communicating through various channels, leadership and professional behaviour. I also found out a huge amount about the accounting industry and what being an accountant really means, which meant I knew I was committed to a career path that I wanted to pursue.”

Digital – the next big area of growth?

While many industries are currently struggling or cutting-back, the digital and cyber-security sectors are thriving, which is perhaps unspringing when you consider just how much of our lives have moved online and continue to do so in the currently working from home and socially-distanced world.

But with this increase in demand there is of course a need for employees to know how to use it and remain safe online. As it stands, a whopping 50% of all UK businesses are on the hunt for cyber-savvy employees. And, with some 35% of cyber-security vacancies being classed as entry-level, it seems that young, professionally trained apprentices could be the solution to a growing challenge.

But is a cyber-security apprenticeship right for you? Well, if you’re someone who is naturally task-focused, logical, methodical, and pays a lot of attention to detail, you could be the perfect candidate.

While cyber-security might sound daunting if you’ve never studied it before, it’s likely you’ll know more about it than you think, but hopefully not through first-hand experience!

During your apprenticeship, you could be helping protect companies against such threats as ‘phishing,’ where criminals try to steal sensitive information and impersonate users online, hijacking usernames, passwords or credit card details by impersonating a trustworthy contact using e-communication.

More recently, hackers have adjusted their attacks to targeting remote-workers by impersonating trusted tech platforms including Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. So as a cyber-security apprentice, you’ll need to be prepared to constantly face new challenges and revel in the fact that no one day is the same!

Upon completion of an apprenticeship, you might choose to specialise in more than one area of expertise. Among the many security challenges businesses are facing, including networking, hardware, software, cloud computing, infrastructure security and more!

It’s no secret that the digital sector offers some of the highest earning potential, and careers in digital and cyber are no exception to this trend. The most in-demand cyber security roles in the UK market include ‘IT security specialist,’ with an average salary of £45,722, security engineer - £32,370, and information security analyst - £39,992. Not bad, right?

Making the move

Apprenticeships usually fall into one of four categories – Intermediate Level (equivalent to 5 GCSE passes), Advanced Level (equivalent to 2 A Level passes), Higher Level (can lead to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 4 or above, or a foundation degree), and Degree apprenticeships (enabling you to achieve a full bachelors or master’s degree).

If an apprenticeship in cyber-security sounds like it could be just right for you, then head to the UCAS website for further details, or, if you find a business offering an apprenticeship scheme go directly to their website.

As an apprenticeship is a paid job, you’ll need to apply in the same way you would apply for any other job, so make sure that your CV is up to date!