For Tyler Wicklein, Howard Community College’s information technology apprenticeship program is all about variety: the variety of IT skills he’s learning, the different kinds of learning in the classroom and on the job and the wide range of people he gets to help working for AT&T.
“You’re working through a variety of IT issues as an apprentice every single day,” Tyler said. “It’s always a new experience and doubles as a learning experience. You might learn something now that you don’t use right away, but then it will kick in later while you’re on the job, and you think, ‘Oh, I remember learning this.’”
The only program of its kind in Maryland, Howard Community College’s information technology apprenticeship program helps students become IT, network and information systems field support specialists. Students take classes at the college and earn industry certifications while working and earning an income with the college’s partner AT&T.
“The program is a good step to get your foot in the door and get started in IT,” Tyler said. “You’ve got two different methods of learning, one at work and one at school. If you face challenges at school, you can ask for help at work and vice versa.”
Apprentices learn topics including troubleshooting networks, switches and routers, Cisco Systems, building computers, cables and cable management, customer service and setting up workstations, virtual desktops and webcams, all crucial skills for IT professionals.
Tyler learned about the apprenticeship at Cyber Dragons, a cybersecurity club at Howard Community College where students gather to discuss cybersecurity topics and hear from guest speakers, including former students with careers in IT. Tyler enrolled at Howard Community College as an IT student in 2017 before entering the apprenticeship program in the fall of 2019.
“It’s a lot of work when you first start, but you get used to it, and it gets easier further down the road. It will help you get a job and further your IT career,” Tyler said. “The program lets you work with customers. I like setting up their computer system and seeing them successfully operate it, knowing that I helped. Putting a smile on their face helps put a smile on my face too.”
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