Doing an apprenticeship is 'a no brainer' says the Cheltenham IT engineer who landed his dream job

What started as a passion for cyber at college turned into a lifelong career path for one apprentice from Cheltenham — with a permanent job offer at one of the region's leading IT companies.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published
Mike Andrews, who started off as an apprentice, is now a fully-qualified workshop engineer and valued member of the ReformIT team.
In partnership with ReformIT  |  reformit.co.uk
ReformIT

ReformIT is a Cheltenham-based IT support specialist, providing expert advice to businesses all over the UK. Assisting with everything from cyber security and cloud technologies to improving broadband speed, ReformIT can tailor its services to meet individual businesses’ needs – whether it’s a fully outsourced IT department or third line support.

Mike Andrews joined Cheltenham-based managed service provider, ReformIT, as a 21-year-old apprentice information communications technician two years ago. He flew through his apprenticeship, being offered a permanent job just six months into his training and gaining a distinction in his qualification.

Now he's a fully qualified workshop engineer, working towards an Apple technician certification with a long-term aspiration to get into cyber. SoGlos spoke to Mike to find out what it's like to do an apprenticeship in IT — and how it felt to land his dream job.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I was always interested in IT because my dad was into computers. Computing is a big thing for my generation. I went to college after school and studied an IT level 3 BTEC and it was really good. I wanted to specialise in cyber after that. So, I finished college and went to Kingston University London to study cyber. I did two years and then, at the end of the second year, Covid hit.

Everyone was choosing to either go home or stay at uni. So I chose to go home to study and, eventually, I just fell out of love with it. Rolling out of bed in the morning and going to your desk to study for a £9,000-a-year course wasn't the most ideal thing. I felt like I was wasting my money — so I left.

I then studied fitness — because I was always at the gym — and became a personal trainer, working for David Lloyd. But there's no money in the fitness industry whatsoever, it's quite cutthroat and that's not who I am. I realised that I still wanted to go into IT, so I started looking at jobs. 

What made you choose the apprenticeship route?

I had never really considered apprenticeships before — I grew up thinking that the wage wasn't livable and that they were for trades such as electricians or plumbing. 

I saw some apprenticeships advertised on Indeed and actually finding out that they had a livable wage really opened my eyes — I knew instantly that I needed to get an apprenticeship.

I hadn't heard much about other apprenticeships before and they weren't really talked about. But I found out there's even apprenticeships for zoology!

They need to be shouted about more, because in my opinion, they completely trump university.

What was it about ReformIT that helped you decide to go for an apprenticeship?

I did a bit of research before the interview and I looked at their website. It highlighted the idea of a family-orientated business, which I liked. 

I also liked all the different avenues the company had for an apprentice, as it's a managed service provider. It had everything — phones, networking, device repairs, general support IT — it wasn't specialised in one area, which I thought was quite nice.

My interview with the service delivery manager, Nic, was just like a chat. I'm quite a nervous person and I had my notes on my phone and questions to ask; straight away Nic said, 'don't worry about that — I just want to talk to you as a person'. 

The main thing he said that I've stuck by is that you can teach IT and you can teach skills, but you can't teach personality. He knew my qualifications, that's what got me the interview, but now it's about my personality. He wanted to understand how I was going to mingle with everyone. It was just like a chat with a friend, which was really nice.

What apprenticeship did you do and how did you get on with it?

I was studying as a Level 3 information communications technician, which is equivalent to a college BTEC, but it's more specialised than the ones you do at college. It was directed towards supporting software like Microsoft Sage and other support products. It was a good stepping stone if you're looking to get into the IT industry.

Managed service providers like ReformIT primarily provide support on a wide range for all types of customer. So getting that technician qualification was quite vital because it's the experience and the certification to show that I can support the basics, like Microsoft, general Windows, Mac OS and Apple. You learn everything like networking, cyber and machine repairs and builds.

How much support did ReformIT give you throughout your apprenticeship?

Oh, loads! Nic was amazing; and I could ask for help at any point. He'd come on the college calls with me, just so he could understand what was going on with it. When I finished, he said he was so proud of me; and he was like that all the way through my apprenticeship. 

Everyone made me feel supported and comfortable — it goes back to that feeling that it's a family. Dan, who is my manager in the workshop in my current job as a workshop engineer, is like a caring older brother.

What happened when your apprenticeship came to an end?

I'd been at ReformIT for about five or six months and I was already being sent out to site visits and stuff like that by myself. I'd been put on the insurance for the van and I'd put myself out there a lot for clients.

I turned to Nic and I said, 'I hope I've got a job at the end of this because I'm really enjoying it' and he laughed at me and said, 'of course you've got a job!'

Then he told Sarah, our operations director, and she laughed as well and said 'of course you've got a job!' They had nothing but praise, which was really nice.

What are you doing now at ReformIT?

I'm now a workshop engineer, working alongside Dan, the workshop manager. Tickets come in for support and repairs; and if a client has a new starter and they want a new laptop procured, our procurement manager will source it and we'll build it and set it up.

We get repairs for iPads, mobile phones, desktop PCs and laptops — we'll do our best to repair what we can but sometimes they need a new machine, which we'll source and configure for them. I've currently got a ticket from one client in for 14 laptops to upgrade and set up. I'm doing that by myself — I do seven at a time.

It's a nice feeling to be able to help someone with something that you find quite simple, but for them it's like you're solving their whole week.

What are your hopes for the future?

I do hope in the future to dive more into the specialty of cyber security as that's my passion. But I also want to get a better understanding of networking and to build a deeper understanding into how machines work, so I can do both repairs and networking.

I'm also working towards my certification as an Apple consultant so that I'm trained in Apple device support and can repair them. Apple devices are very specific and how you fix them is a special skill because the screens are volatile and everything looks different on the inside compared to a normal PC.

What advice would you give to young people trying to decide which path to take?

Understand what passions and interests you have and, if you're not sure what you want to do in the future or for your career, don't choose university. University is without a doubt a specialisation in something; and if you aren't sure what you want to study, I would think carefully about whether uni is the right path.

I would always recommend college after GCSEs as that can be where you look to specialise in a passion. When I went, I knew I would do something in IT and then I found out my passion was cyber.

An apprenticeship is the best of both worlds as you get a qualification and experience — and you now earn a liveable wage, so it's a no brainer.

In partnership with ReformIT  |  reformit.co.uk

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