Long before the advent of the computer, apprenticeships were an important way of preparing aspiring tradespeople to succeed at the jobs society needed most. Imagine back when metalworking by hand was the only way to make tools. There was little room for error. Those who wanted to become blacksmiths needed someone to show them how to do things – and do them right. Apprentice blacksmiths learned not by sitting in a classroom, but by getting their hands dirty, learning the tricks of the trade and having their work guided and evaluated by someone with the breadth of knowledge garnered from a lifetime of experience.
IT may require a little less physical muscle than knocking out swords on an anvil, but it's a trade that requires a lot of mental energy, quick thinking, problem-solving skills and system-specific knowhow, some of which can best be learned on the job. And so, just like the apprentice blacksmith of the past, today's IT professional can get an unprecedented shot at job-readiness with a combination of an apprenticeship and CompTIA certification.
Apprenticeships: What Are Employers Looking For?
Since its inception in 2001, cybersecurity services provider CyberDefenses has believed in the necessity of a strong cybersecurity stance for every business, organization and institution – and has sought to cultivate the skilled IT talent to make that possible. Earlier this year CyberDefenses launched its inaugural apprenticeship program with six IT pros, training them and helping them to get CompTIA certified.
Because the CyberDefenses program was bringing on apprentices as paid employees who would be working directly with clients sooner rather than later, applicants underwent a rigorous vetting process. It wasn't necessarily a matter of hard tech skills, but the capacity and desire to learn and put in the work that CyberDefenses was looking for.
Prospective apprentices had to perform the following:
- Display a natural interest in the world of cybersecurity and the issues surrounding it by giving a presentation on the topic of their choosing
- Demonstrate general problem-solving skills through a non-technical route (in one instance, a Sudoku game)
- Show, through various rounds of interviews, a willingness and desire to learn, eat, breathe and sleep cybersecurity and to work in a focused, rigorous fashion to understand the material and reach goals
Apprenticeships: How Do They Really Help?
Once they were up to speed, the six apprentices who were invited to take part in the CyberDefenses apprenticeship program were put to work securing the networks of real CyberDefenses clients overseen by their supervisors.
The hands-on, guided element of the program gave the apprentices the following types of real-world experience:
- Seeing the types of cybersecurity problems that arise in an actual day on the job
- Receiving guidance on how to act in response to real unfolding cybersecurity scenarios
- Understanding how to work together with other cybersecurity professionals
Certifications and Apprenticeships: Two Sides of the Employment Coin
Throughout the program, apprentices studied for their CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications and took the exams as their in-the-field responsibilities continued to increase. And they found a significant synergy between the information they were learning in their trainings and what they were seeing as they worked on client networks.
Not only did CompTIA certifications provide a foundation of knowledge for what was happening on the systems, it also gave them a basis for effective communication with their supervisors and coworkers. Learning the massive amount of tech-specific vocabulary, acronyms and the like through their IT certification training allowed the apprentices to better understand what other IT pros were saying and how to explain, clearly and concisely, what they were seeing.
CompTIA certifications test on the most current, up-to-date skills necessary to do any IT job correctly. Apprenticeships give hands-on experience, detailed training and insight into the types of real-life situations an IT pro faces every day. Combining them gives apprentices the full picture of what they need to know to thrive in an IT role.
But there are even more practical advantages that come with a successful apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships: Supercharging Employment Opportunities
Nobody knows the specifics of a network better than someone who has worked on it, and as is the case with the first set of CyberDefenses apprentices, those who succeed in the program are shoe-ins for an ongoing cybersecurity job. After all, they're already doing the work.
And apprenticeships that include IT certifications are likewise preparing job seekers for a role in cybersecurity with more than just the knowledge they impart. For example, IT pros who work for government agencies or contractors are required to hold certain IT certifications, and many CompTIA certifications meet those requirements. So, a CompTIA-certified apprentice is set up to take on the cybersecurity employment landscape in more ways than one.
Download the full case study about the CyberDefenses apprenticeship program or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.