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ITP Award Winners 2021 - SME Apprentice of the Year
Apprentices / Jacob Whitby

How did you start your apprenticeship and what did the process involve?

I was already employed at Astro. During a discussion with my manager Sarah (another finalist 😉), it became apparent that whilst I was obtaining quite a bit of knowledge, I didn’t have anything to back it up with on paper. Following this, there was some research done in the background to see what type of apprenticeship would fit me best and what would pique my interest. We found that cyber security was the best way forward for me. I received a few welcome emails from GKA and then got to meet my assessor who laid out where I needed to be and when.

What drove you to pursue a career in this field?

From a young age, I’ve been drawn to technology. I think from the age of 12 I knew the secret meaning behind ‘turning it off and on again.' That natural draw to technology got my foot in the door and I’ve always had a keen interest in defence, so it seemed fitting to put my skills to use in cyber security. It’s an up-and-coming industry that involves working in the financial sector to the military. Every industry is seeking individuals capable of protecting digital assets and that demand is only ever increasing.

How did you find working and studying at the same time?

It’s not easy, but then again, it’s not meant to be easy, that’s what makes it so rewarding. I believe that everybody will have a different experience. For me personally, as a senior member of my team combined with the pandemic, I would say it has been much easier to find the time to work on my apprenticeship. This is because things have been quieter and there has been more time at home. However, with the return to normality came customers with offices and restaurants that have not been in use for over 12 months and the workload became a shock for everyone so it did become much more difficult to find that time.

It must be said, a big part of this comes down to your employer. With Astro being a big supporter of apprenticeships and the ITP, I’ve been afforded the time to complete my work.

What has been the biggest highlight during your apprenticeship?

Can I answer this with a picture? It must be winning Apprentice of the year.

What has been your most valuable takeaway or learning during this time?

Discipline and consistency are everything. No matter what you do, whether it is going to the gym, setting a goal/target of some kind, or taking on more responsibility at work or even going for an apprenticeship, it all requires some level of discipline. It’s easy to say you can take on a project at work on top of your usual day job or to say you’re going to the gym, but to do it well and succeed at these requires consistency and discipline.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge must have been at the start of my apprenticeship. I remember sitting at home after agreeing to it and getting my first load of work through and thinking “what have I got myself into?” I felt like the world was almost falling apart due to the COVID and here I was taking on more work! However, I am a strong believer in making sure I come out the other side in a much better position than I went in. Once you sit down, set yourself deadlines and get an understanding of what is required it’s not so daunting and becomes manageable.

What would you say to others considering an apprenticeship?

Do it! I’m 25 years old (that is halfway to 50 might I add) and hearing that I would be considered ‘an apprentice’ I had always pictured a school leaver and thought to myself “surely I’m past that?” There are so many different levels of apprenticeships suitable for all ages. I’ve now passed four cyber security exams and going into my fifth. I’m lined up for four CompTIA+ exams that are all internationally recognised, all in the space of a year. All while getting paid. Have I sold it yet?

What are your career aspirations from here on?

Things don’t happen overnight; I’m continuing to finish my apprenticeship and to obtain some more experience in the field of cyber security. I’m also in the process of joining the Army Reserves in the Royal Signals so that is keeping me busy in my free time.

What does it mean to you to win the ITP SME Apprentice of the Year Award?

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve gotten over it. But it has made everything come full circle for me, from feeling like I was too old for an apprenticeship and the daunting experience of receiving my first workload to winning Apprentice of the Year just made it all worth it and I’m not even finished yet!

See the full list of 2021 winners and finalists here.

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