George Smith, Degree apprenticeship in Digital Technology Solutions Software

“You don’t just learn in the classroom, you learn from experience,” says George Smith, who is in the third and final year of his degree apprenticeship in digital technology solutions software.

George, who lives in Burnley, said: “I came to an open event here at Burnley College and I was talking to the tutors who have industry experience. I had no idea what courses were available, but they talked to me about the kind of careers the various courses can lead on to.”

Burnley College is now one of the seven education partners involved in the Lancashire and Cumbria Institute of Technology. This new Government-backed organisation has invested £8.7million in the cutting-edge technology to replicate equipment used in industry.

George, 21, who originally enrolled on to the National Extended Diploma in Computer Science, said: “The College has changed a lot in the last few years in terms of equipment – just like the digital sector.

“To be able to stop a hack, we need to know how it’s done in the first place. The more hostile scenarios we can experience, the more skills we’ll learn. The Security Operations Centre (SOC), which is stacked floor to ceiling with digital screens, has its own server too, which is isolated from our internal college network.

“This allows us to be able to host DDoS attacks which can replicate hacks. It’s a safe environment to test our skills because, obviously, we don’t want to affect anything on our college server.”


George’s tutors have industry experience in networking, Python, databases, SQL and web development.

He added: “When you know absolutely nothing about the module, you want somebody who’s had that real world experience to teach it – and Burnley College do this very well.

“As well as physical skills, we develop behavioural skills like critical thinking and the ability to analyse data too.

“I think the apprenticeship route is the best of both worlds. You’re taught these skills in the classroom and then you implement them in the workplace. Working with data involves a lot of problem solving, which you refine through experience.”

George, who has progressed on to a degree apprenticeship, didn’t expect to get a job at the college too.

“I worked hard and was offered a job in business intelligence as part of my apprenticeship. My day-to-day role includes a lot of data – creating reports and dashboards that help people with their jobs and the overall running and monitoring of the college.

“When I finish my course I’m hoping to stay on with the college and continue to develop my skills in this subject area.

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