I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to visit East Lothian Council’s very own IT department. This section of the council focuses on providing technical support for all areas of the public sector in the local authority, such as fixing computer issues in schools, as well as ensuring all information is kept secure and cannot be hacked into. IT is a significant part of the curriculum for the Foundation Apprenticeship in Business Skills, and therefore this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to have a look at what the students may get up to.
My visit began by sitting down for a chat with Alistair Campbell, Team Manager for Desktop Services and the Service Desk. He explained that the job role involves ensuring that all members of staff working in the aforementioned areas work efficiently and feel managed and supported. It is a significant role to take on, as this also involves the management and maintenance of the 8,000 or so computers in East Lothian’s schools. Alistair himself got into IT by studying electronic engineering and moving into a job focusing on fixing computers, before moving into the East Lothian Council IT department.
The IT office was large, with many members of staff from different sub-teams working away. Everyone seemed very busy, but there was a friendly atmosphere, and members of staff were more than happy to talk with me about their job. What struck me was how many teams were involved in the department; there really is something for every interest, such as Infrastructure and Security (they ensure the council complies with the government’s security regulations), and the Service Desk (they use customer service and technical skills to solve IT problems). This wide range of skills and backgrounds seems to lend itself well to creating a cohesive department. Alistair stated that qualifications are important to work in IT, but what is more important is having experience in the field, which Business Skills students will receive.
Katie Jenkins, IT Officer at East Lothian Council, was kind enough to answer my many questions I had about her job role.
How did you get into the IT industry?
I left school and my first job was data input on the IT helpdesk and general administrative work with the Finance and IT Directorate. From there I have worked hard to learn on the job and through courses to work my way up within the IT department.
What attracted you to a career in this industry?
I enjoy helping people and using my problem solving skills to fix and end users problems. It is very satisfying knowing that I have helped in some way.
What does a typical day involve for you?
Our first job is to check for planned network point activations and shared account enablements. After that our general work includes:
- Logging Service Desk incidents and requests.
- Checking the email triage.
- Fixing technical issues at the first point of contact.
- Assigning calls to the relevant teams for further investigation.
What skills do you think people need to work in IT?
Good customer service skills, patience, and a good working knowledge of a broad range of technology within East Lothian Council. You also need to learn quickly with the rapidly changing software/hardware/technology, for example going from encrypted peripherals to cloud based storage.
What do you think are the best parts about the job?
Working as part of a team of people. Meeting new people daily and helping others. I am constantly learning new things, which I find challenging and rewarding.
What advice would you give to students wanting to get into a career like yours?
Remember to be patient with others, whether it be colleagues, end users, or external contractors.
I would like to thank the entire IT department for allowing me into their busy workplace; it is greatly appreciated. I would like to extend another thank you to Alistair Campbell and Katie Jenkins for answering my questions. If you’d like to find out more about Foundation Apprenticeships, have a read of our blog post here. If you’re interested in getting involved, speak to your guidance teacher for advice and/or an application form. Any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.