Cybersecurity is crucial to all companies, no matter how big or small, and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) are one of many employers who are helping young people build their skills through apprenticeships.
Colin Buchanan became the first Cyber Security Graduate Apprentice at SDS when he began his apprenticeship in August this year. His apprenticeship involves one day of university, where he is completing a BSc in Cyber Security with Edinburgh Napier University alongside four days working with SDS per week.
Chris Knight, EIS Assurance Manager who works as part of a shared IT service team between Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Highland and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise, oversaw the recruitment process.
He said: “We work in a wider team of around 90 people, with a smaller cybersecurity team of only six people and a when looking for someone to take up a role in cyber, it can be difficult to find someone with the right skillset. Therefore, we felt it was so important to give a young person the opportunity.
“We had hundreds of applications for the GA, which shows there are lots of people waiting for the right opportunity for them. As great as it was to see the level of interest, it made the selection process difficult.
“We found there was a real variety in applications, from people straight out of school to people with three to four years’ experience, and there were even some career changers too. For us, finding the right person was extremely important.
“When we spoke with Colin, who was successful in getting the job, it was clear he was right for the job. He’s very bright and enthusiastic, but he was also really motivated and wanted a career in cyber.”
All businesses can benefit from hiring an apprentice, and not only in cybersecurity. So far, Colin has been able to get involved in several SDS projects, bringing valuable insights to the team. As he progresses in his university work, Colin will pick up a lot of new skills and knowledge which he can then bring back to the team.
Colin Buchanan, age 22, GA Cyber Security said: “When I left school, I went to Dundee to study Ethical Hacking. However, the intensity of the classes was too much for me and I dropped out.
“I later began a Modern Apprenticeship in IT and Telecoms with ATOS and afterwards, began looking at what careers were available to me. That’s when I decided to apply for the Graduate Apprenticeship.
Buchanan added: “So far, I feel like the GA is way better suited to me. I have Asperger’s, which is a form of Autism and being in a regular routine for work really appeals to me. I am a high-functioning individual and I’ve spent a lot of my life learning how to communicate well which is something I’m comfortable with now.
“For a lot of neurodiverse people, the idea of applying for a job or an apprenticeship might be quite overwhelming, but the application process was very straightforward and wasn’t stressful at all.
“I think that there are a large majority of neurodiverse people who are incredibly bright and able, but if they aren’t in the right environment, their stimuli may shutdown. It’s important that employers understand that they need to make changes in order to support those individuals and if they do, they will see great returns for their business.”
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Buchanan continued: “A Graduate Apprenticeship isn’t like any other job. It is a commitment, as it does last four years. However, you end up with a degree at the end of it. You get the experience of work while studying and you even qualify with no student debt!
“A lot of employers out there don’t have enough knowledge of apprenticeships as a whole and still believe that they are only available to those looking for a trade, but that’s not the case. There’s just about an apprenticeship for everything, and all businesses should consider taking on an apprentice.”
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If you are interested in hiring an apprentice, or in becoming an apprentice yourself, visit www.apprenticeships.scot for more information and to get in touch.