Chris Jones' Apprenticeship

Chris Jones

Job Title: Virtualisation Infrastructure Engineer

Employer: Customer Service Direct

How did you get on at school?

I worked hard at high school and in the 6th form, concentrated on my three main subjects of Science, Literature, and ICT. I studied all the sciences and Maths at A level and then went on to study Biomedical Sciences at University of Essex, with the aspiration to be a Pathologist.

A little into my second year, I found that University wasn’t for me, and decided to pursue my other two academic interests. So I studied Literature with the Open University, while studying ICT at Suffolk New College.

How did you find out about apprenticeships?

The Customer Service Direct apprenticeships were offered to me through the IDEA Apprenticeship Scheme (based at Suffolk New College), a federated apprenticeship provider consisting of a number of local bodies, including Suffolk New College, BT and Suffolk County Council

And then what happened?

I attended an interview, where the panel were impressed with my ICT knowledge and my problem solving skills. I was then offered a year as an ICT apprentice at Customer Service Direct.

I spent the year in the Solution Design and Architecture team. There were five apprentices taken on for the year, and each was placed in a different team. I feel I was the luckiest to get the placement because the team had a lot of involvement with other teams, was deeply into future technologies and innovative solutions which meant I had a surprising variety of work to do, which was very fulfilling.

What was your first day like?

The first day was mainly orientation. We were introduced to a lot of the different team members, and taken on tours of Suffolk County Council and Customer Service Direct property.

What did you earn?

We all earned the standard government apprentice wage of £95 per week

What work did you do?

I spent a lot of time with hardware, building servers and assisting in the network configuration. I also spent time on the business logistical side of the ICT, such as reporting on the amount of ICT equipment owned and used in comparison to the number of employees in the office at one time.

The most enjoyable time was when I was assigned to work to deploy the Virtual Server Environment. Virtual Infrastructure is the future of computing – it means getting “more juice” out of the computer, reducing costs, using less equipment and using, less power to run and cool the computer.

What was important about the apprenticeship for you

The key benefit of being an apprentice is that you earn while you learn. What else is there around that lets you do both?

This is actually my second apprenticeship. My first was with a local small ICT company who were very supportive and gave me great on the job experience, but could not afford to support my education and training aspirations.

The apprenticeship with Customer Service Direct and Suffolk County Council allowed me to get excellent work experience in a wide range of ICT and business areas, a wage, and a qualification.

What role did Suffolk New College play in your apprenticeship?

Before I became an apprentice I took a took the BTEC National Diploma for ICT Practitioners and Business at Suffolk New College which gave me a sound qualification and led very nicely into applying for an IDEA apprenticeship at CSD.

Suffolk New College came through with an excellent assessor for my apprenticeship - he made me work for the qualification and taught me some useful skills on top of the curriculum.

What qualifications did you gain?

An NVQ level 3 in ICT Professionals to add to my BTEC National Diploma ICT Practitioners and Business which now means I have enough UCAS points (in excess of 400) should I ever wish to return to university.

How long were you an apprentice and what were the best bits?

I was an apprentice for one year with CSD. Academically, my best experience was working on the Virtualization project. CSD also encourage apprentices to become involved in charity and fund raising events, to take part in events such as Suffolk Skillz (a local IT careers event for young people held at Adastral Park) and to plan and run inductions for the apprentices who came after us.

What jobs have you had so far and what are you doing now?

I worked in Newsagents for seven years from the age of 16. While I was at University I continued working weekends at the newsagents and also evenings in a cocktail bar on campus. After College I entered my first ICT apprenticeship, which gave me seven enjoyable months that were highly informative and great experience. However, these experiences paled in comparison to the experiences I had as an apprentice at Customer Service Direct.

What about the future?

To coin a phrase - “The future is now”. Customer Service Direct and Suffolk County Council have extended my contract to continue working with the Virtualization project. I now have the job title of Virtual Infrastructure Engineer, and work in a team of four doing something I really enjoy. My hope for the future would be to carry on doing what I’m doing – with maybe a couple of pay rises along the way!