Do you need a degree to work in tech?

  • By Sean McManus
  • Technology Reporter

Image supply, Virgin Media O2

Image caption,

Travis Williams determined not to go college

“I had a lot of people telling me university was the way to go,” says Travis Williams, “but with my learning style, working with technology helps me to understand it better.”

Like almost 637,000 others, he’s an apprentice. For faculty leavers who don’t desire to – or cannot – go to college, apprenticeships provide an alternate route into many tech corporations.

Mr Williams joined Virgin Media O2 as a cyber safety apprentice, a yr and a half in the past. Before that, he obtained A ranges in IT and cyber safety in school, after which went on to work at a totally different school in IT, primarily providing helpdesk help.

Now, Mr Williams is chargeable for establishing, sustaining and monitoring safety techniques at Virgin Media O2, for each community and information centre infrastructure.

He’s turn into a go-to-person if there may be an downside in the Intrusion Prevention System, which displays the community for unauthorised actions.

“If there’s an issue with that, they’ll come to me or one of my colleagues,” he says. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s very exciting to have that experience.”

What was the corporate searching for in him? “Not so much someone who has all the answers, but someone who shows an interest and a willingness to learn as much as possible,” says Mr Williams. “Mentioning that I played around with [network analysis] tools at home helped to show that.”

“The best thing about an apprenticeship is being able to learn the skills you need and then also sometimes being able to apply them the very same day,” he says. “I think university is great but it will never give you that working experience.”

Image supply, BAE Systems

Image caption,

Hollie Keenan joined BAE as an apprentice after her GCSEs

Elsewhere, BAE Systems plans to recruit 1,400 apprentices this yr. Hollie Keenan left faculty after her GCSEs and joined BAE Systems’ superior apprenticeship in 2019.

She works on the submarine shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness. As an affiliate manufacturing engineer, she makes use of a digital actuality headset to test the submarine for potential issues earlier than it goes into manufacturing.

She by no means thought of going to college. “Where I live, all that was talked about was apprenticeships,” she says. “All my family came [to BAE] through the apprenticeship scheme and have gone on to do other things in the business.”

The apprenticeship is a three-and-a-half yr programme. Ms Keenan’s first yr was spent principally in school, studying software abilities in {the electrical}, mechanical and pipes workshops. In the second yr, she spent at some point a week in school, finding out matters corresponding to supplies and well being and security.

Although she’s begun her profession, she’s contemplating beginning a degree in a couple of years. “It opens doors if I wanted to go somewhere else,” she says.

IBM is hiring individuals with out levels to assist it recruit a extra numerous workforce. “There are brilliant people everywhere, but opportunity is not the same for everyone,” says Jenny Taylor MBE, who leads the corporate’s early skilled programmes.

“Our clients are diverse. Why wouldn’t you want to seek talent from every avenue that you can?”

In a survey of employers, by abilities growth organisation Generation, 52% of respondents mentioned they wrestle to fill entry-level tech positions.

Whether individuals be part of IBM as apprentices or graduates, the corporate is searching for the identical transferable abilities. “If you’ve worked in a bar, you’ll have teamwork, client focus and communication skills,” says Ms Taylor. “You’ll have dealt with difficult people. We’re much more interested in the person than the academic qualifications.”

As nicely as having entry-level programmes, IBM has eliminated degree necessities from many different job listings, so individuals aren’t deprived later in their careers.

Research by The Burning Glass Institute discovered that solely 29% of IBM’s listings for a Software Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer in the US required a degree. By comparability, it was between 90% and 100% at 4 different big-name tech corporations.

“They’re behind the curve,” says Robin MacDonald, director at tech recruitment firm Harvey Nash. “They just haven’t changed their ways. They’ll have to. There’s no reason a QA needs to have a degree to do that job. We can train those people in months.”

He provides: “If you’re hiring for programmers at entry level and only looking at people with computer science degrees, you’re not going to have a gender split because 90% of the courses are filled with males.”

Bootcamps provide quick and intensive in-person programs to quickly talent up in tech, and plenty of self-guided programs can be found on-line.

Image supply, Rebecca Noonan

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Vesko Trakiyski dropped out of faculty and taught himself to code

“I was pretty surprised when I found out that Harvard’s introduction to computer science (CS50) is available for free online for anyone to learn,” says Vesko Trakiyski, know-how director at digital advertising and marketing company

He dropped out of faculty on the age of 15 and taught himself net design and tech abilities for the subsequent two years, together with via the Harvard course. At 17, he obtained his first job as an entry-level net developer.

Two years later, he joined start-up as a junior developer. Eight years on, the corporate is 10 occasions larger and he’s know-how director. “I don’t think I’d be at this level in my career development if I’d first started looking for a job after graduating uni.”

“Tech is one of those industries where you genuinely don’t need a degree to find a job and have a career,” he says. “It’s quite unconventional, risky and weird to not go down the established path, but if you know you want to do a certain role, in some cases, there is a different path that’s open.”

Like Mr Trakiyski, Daniele Servadei taught himself to code. He is finding out for a degree in pc science, although, regardless of already having arrange a web based enterprise. He co-founded Sellix in 2021, which allows individuals to receives a commission for digital merchandise. It’s now processed round $80m (£61m) in funds for 280,000 retailers.

“When you have an idea, you should immediately get going with it,” he says. “Don’t wait to perfect the idea. When we initially launched Sellix, it only had a couple of features.”

Image caption,

Daniele Servadei arrange a web based enterprise however has gone to college to be taught extra

He recognises that there are essential points of pc science he has but to be taught, however his important motivation for going to college was to construct contacts. “There are many people [at university] that want to learn and have the same ideas as you,” he says. “The best thing is the university atmosphere.”

There are benefits to tuition over self-guided studying. When you’re instructing your self, you could make applications that work however that may not use the very best method, Mr Servadei says. A instructor will spot that and assist you. He’s additionally discovered that college programs are structured to information your studying in a logical order, whereas on-line documentation usually is not.

He recommends college students complement their research with their very own studying. His course teaches the C programming language, however JavaScript and Python are the languages wanted for a lot of jobs immediately. “You need to see what the market needs you to know and study that as well,” he says. “Don’t just trust that the teacher knows everything about everything in the computer science world.”

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