IT is a Hidden Opportunity for Britain's Young People

29/11/2012 11:13 GMT | Updated 28/01/2013 10:12 GMT

IT workers get a bit of a bad rap. We don't really sit in basements talking about Star Wars and the finer points of the latest technology. Well, not all of us anyway.

I didn't plan to go into IT. But since starting my career I've been amazed to discover the huge opportunities open to me in this industry. I'm still fairly new to it and trying to build up my skills, but see that I could one day specialise in so many areas such as cyber security or programming, or could develop skills that would take me into any industry from sport to retail to finance. I could take my skills and work anywhere in the world or I could even found the next multi million pound IT business - who knows?

But right now, I'm still only 20. I did A Levels in Product Design, Photography and Economics and part time work experience in hospitality and administration. I didn't have any IT qualifications at all until this year. But I like technology so I looked at what was out there and came across an IT apprenticeship with Just IT. A few months later I was their 2012 Apprentice of the Year.

What impressed me was the clear and well supported route in. I didn't take the degree route. My apprenticeship gave me hands on learning and I gained practical IT qualifications including CompTIA A+. This entry level qualification is the international standard for IT technicians. It can be learned and passed in a few months, and it gave me the skills to start a professional career, debt free, in my late teens. Armed with this, I landed a job with Advanced 365, which has also provided training and development. Already I'm on my way to a successful career.

Working in IT has dispelled many myths for me about the industry. I now understand the IT engineer as someone who protects and manages business data. We ensure everything works and we protect against corporate disaster. With the growing dependence on IT systems, IT is a crucial part of the business world. As an engineer, I'm not just the guy to fix your broken computer or recover your lost file. I'm part of a team of engineers managing the delicate IT system that allows companies to communicate with the rest of the world including their current and potential customers, suppliers, and partners. The IT industry takes care of the entire world's communications, such as on websites, servers, email, point of sale machines, etc.

Job security is another important factor. IT is one of the few industries that is growing and needs more people. And unlike most professions, young people who grew up with technology have a huge advantage and are much in demand. And the rapid change and expansion will ensure that the industry not only grows for the foreseeable future, but becomes ever more diverse and interesting.

It's also a myth that IT is only for people with highly technical qualifications. Of course you need an interest in technology, but an IT career can be joined at any level, age or experience. It is an industry open to everyone, and is particularly advantageous for young people. You can join post 16 as I did on an apprenticeship, you can get into IT after university with a degree, or you can make a career change into IT.

So I would say to anyone leaving school or university and wondering what to do with your life - IT represents a secure, exciting and rewarding career. And if the industry is to meet its potential, it needs ambitious young people coming in. So put aside your preconceptions and see if it might be right for you.