By Toni Marshall, Youth Programmes Manager at ITEC
Matthew Butcher started with ITEC as a Study Programme learner who went on to complete his Level 2 IT Professional Apprenticeship gaining his MTA Networking Fundamentals, MTA Server Administration and CompTIA A+ qualifications. He then went on to complete his Level 3 IT Professional Apprenticeship gaining his Network+ and MSCA Qualifications and is now currently completing his Level 4 Cyber Security Apprenticeship. I caught up with Matthew to pick his brain as to why he chose the apprenticeship route and if he thought it was the right choice.
Did you choose to come to ITEC, over going to college?
No, I did go to college to get my A levels. However, I didn’t study IT so I applied to do an apprenticeship at ITEC even though I didn’t have much experience in IT. I got a call asking if I would like to take part in ITEC’s study programme, which would then give me the qualifications to do an apprenticeship with ITEC, and then once the course was completed my CV would be sent out to employers to help me get an apprenticeship. I attended an open day where I got to talk to all of the trainers at ITEC and they seemed really knowledgeable, so I decided to give it a shot – and I haven’t looked back!
What advantages do you feel you have now over someone that would have done IT at college then gone off to University and got a degree in Computer Science? Do you feel that you have more advantage over somebody who has done that?
I definitely feel I’ve got a lot more real-world experience than they tend to give you at University. University is more theory-based. The study I have done and skills I have learnt here at ITEC are much more work-based, so the Microsoft, CompTIA and Huawei qualifications I’m doing are real-world situations rather than the simulated world in exams and qualifications the universities tend to offer. I’ve gained a lot of experience working with my boss that I don’t think I would have gained if I had gone to University. When things don’t go right in the real world within IT I know how to fix the problems as I have learned about them in a live environment, whereas someone who has been to University will only know the theoretical side, which isn’t always the way things go on a real system. I didn’t want to go to University to get into debt and get a degree which potentially doesn’t prepare you for the real world of work when you do try for a job. For the IT that I do, a degree in Computer Science wouldn’t really stand out as it is too vague. Whereas with the Apprenticeships you don’t have the worry about any debt, you get what you learn and you get paid too
You started on the Study Programme, level 2, level 3 now coming into your level 4. What is the thing that you’ve enjoyed the most?
All of the Technical Side, building up to what I’m doing now. Obviously, I wouldn’t be able to do the Huawei qualifications that I’m doing now without the background learning I have done because it wouldn’t make any sense at all. So, it’s been good getting all of the knowledge and building up to it and the support from the technical trainers has been fantastic.
Where do you feel that ITEC was there for support to bridge the gap between leaving school and going to work? Do you feel you got support around that?
Yes, I would say the most support came from the beginning. It was a harder transition as I had never done any IT before and I didn’t have any experience. Doing the Study Programme with Andrew and Stuart gave me all of the fundamentals and basics, and, as I didn’t know much, it was a good place to start. I did find the reviews helped highlight areas with myself that still needed developing. For example, the IT Trainer would write on the review that I needed help in a specific area then I would know that I needed to improve and I knew what I needed to focus on and could work on it with the trainers.
Tell me about a typical day at Cyberdan.
Anything goes! You come in one morning and it can be completely quiet all day. You come in the next day and the phones are ringing off the hook. The general stuff that we do throughout the day is supporting clients and doing monitoring checks in the background to keep their IT systems healthy. You carry out a review of the client backups, making sure they’ve all come in properly and, if they haven’t you, remedy them. First remedy, then investigate, that’s our policy. Usually, they go hand in hand but sometimes, it’s as simple as the backup being larger than usual and timing out before it can send. We then check the intranet. We have a job section on our intranet, which generally for me is client health checks – these can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours. We are always learning stuff about the benefits and restrictions of various Operating Systems like Linux during our downtime and seeing how we can practically use them to make our lives easier and to help the clients keep their systems running. Obviously, clients come first above all.
What is a typical issue that comes up?
A typical issue at the moment is that we have a client who runs a slightly older version of Oracle that has a bug where the memory fails to clear down when the contents are no longer needed by Oracle. This has caused their shared memory to fill up and means that their server will fall over regularly now that we have entered the busy period. To remedy this, we monitor their shared memory and when it gets to around 80% full we will schedule some downtime with them to do a restart on their database to clear the memory down. We are in talks with them to get a patch to fix this, however, we are against doing this during their busiest time of the year as we are wary of introducing new bugs or issues. At this point, it’s better the devil you know!
What is something that you have learned at ITEC then when you have gone back to work it has been really valuable?
I would say Networking; We’ve had a couple of issues with client DNS which is covered under the networking courses and has made diagnosing these issues so much easier.
How did you feel holding a job down as well as trying to do day release? How did you balance it?
Quite easily. Dan is very supportive, whenever I need to do a day at ITEC he says ‘just put it in the diary, don’t worry about work and go to college and get your work done’. If I need to finish any more college work at work then that’s fine so long as the clients are taken care of.
We have seen you start ITEC as a young man and now its years down the line and completing a level 4 apprenticeship. You have obviously seen yourself grow within this time and your knowledge and skills have developed, so where do you see yourself in five to six years’ time?
Working in Cyber Security, that’s where I have wanted to be almost since I started my apprenticeship. Hacking and security are very interesting to me and where I would like to end up as the scope for it is huge (user training, system vulnerabilities, different types of attacks etc.). I’m currently doing the Cyber Security apprenticeship and Dan has said if I find any other training that’s reasonably affordable I can get on that too.
Would you recommend ITEC to other young people considering an Apprenticeship as an alternative to College or University?
I would. The technical training is really the best around compared to other places that I’ve seen as they don’t offer nearly as much with the amount of support ITEC does. You get a longer time period too to complete the training, like Network + you get around 13 weeks whereas other places you only get 5 weeks. You learn at a good pace it’s not rushed and Darko really knows how to effectively teach the course material. I think it is the best place to be for training as a technical apprentice.
Matthew was interviewed by ITEC’s Youth Programmes Manager, Toni Marshall. To find out more about IT Apprenticeships at ITEC, contact Toni on 01268 286929 firstname.lastname@example.org