Taking an IT degree apprenticeship

Photo of former CGI degree apprentice
Emma Jackson took a degree apprenticeship at CGI and is now a junior cyber security consultant.

Emma is climbing the career ladder at the company where she did her degree apprenticeship. Here’s her career story so far.

  • 2010 – volunteered at Age Concern for almost two years
  • 2010 – launched a web design company
  • 2012 – finished college with two BTECs in business studies and a double ICT in June
  • 2012 – joined CGI’s degree apprenticeship programme in September, studying at the University of Winchester
  • 2015 – graduated with a first class honours degree in business management for IT in July

Emma says…

Tuition fees were increased in the year that I was due to begin university so I had to explore alternative options. I believed that having a degree would open doors, but I couldn’t afford £9,000 a year.

I searched online for opportunities and came across CGI’s degree apprenticeship programme, which combines a full-time, permanent job with a degree in a related subject. Even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I left college, I applied for the scheme. What I did know, though, was that the programme was a fast-track road to work experience and a degree. Before long I was invited to Reading for an assessment day, after which I was offered a job.

Completing my degree apprenticeship

Three years later and I’m a junior cyber security consultant with a first-class degree in business management for IT, as well as having a lot of experience and a couple of awards under my belt. I won the CGI ReCoGnition Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement and the Elena Marinich Workplace Excellence Award. I’m also the first person in my family to have gone to university.

What my job involves

One of the main things that I do in my role is visit various internal and external clients and carry out a risk analysis against a universal and industry standard specification for an information security management system. I then inform the client of their current security status. I advise on how they can make improvements and discuss areas that they should focus on to increase their compliance with the specification.

Developing my career as a cyber security consultant

My ambition is to become a senior cyber security consultant. We have a lot of interesting clients within cyber security and I really enjoy working with them. It’s funny that when I was younger I was fascinated by hackers. I found it interesting that people had the skills to break into computer systems. And now I’m helping clients to defend themselves against attacks and unauthorised access.

It’s good that I still receive a lot of hands-on support and that it hasn’t all stopped because I’ve finished my degree. My people manager speaks with me about how I want to progress my career at CGI. She encourages me to think about what I want to do and informs me of the professional development and training courses that are available to help me get there. I began working towards a CISSP certification in October and I’m awaiting promotion panels.

I also want to get involved in CGI’s internal support network and become a people manager or mentor. I want to help people get comfortable within the company, just as I was helped. I’ve already worked with the recruitment team to develop a scheme to help those who are relocating for a degree apprenticeship at the company. Most people will be around 18 years old and coming into the business and a new area straight from college; it can be scary for them to have to make a lot of decisions all at once. Although I now see Reading as home, I needed a support network when I moved down from Merseyside.

Advice for school leavers

Work or university are often presented as the only two options for college leavers. That isn’t true! There are other possibilities; for example, you can do a degree apprenticeship programme where you combine work and university, or that leads to professional qualification. There are lots of apprenticeships out there – the government is really pushing them at the moment.

School leavers often tell me at careers events that they don’t know what they want to study at university or they don’t know what industry they want to go into. That’s okay. If CGI has taught me anything, it’s that it is okay if you don’t know what you want to do now or in 30 years’ time.

CGI gives trainees the chance to try different roles and find out what they enjoy and are good at. I’ve had a few different roles, including business analyst and web designer, since joining the organisation. Companies value the young workforce and see their potential and how they can help them develop. They want to help you develop.

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