Leigh recently had the pleasure of spending time with young adults during Careers Focus week at one of the Isle of Man's high schools, discussing with students what it's like to have a career in ICT

There is often a huge amount of pressure put on young people today to decide what they want to do for a career as early as possible. I remember being 13 and having a vague idea of the sort of career I would like but, as so often happens, the advice available from school at the time did not really cover the vast range of opportunities that were, and still are, available.

Some years (I dare not say how many) have passed since then and I believe that both the support and options for young people on the Isle of Man have greatly increased. Take for example the availability of apprenticeships and vocational courses. The expansion of the University College has allowed more young people to stay and train on the island in a wider variety of occupations.

In the past many young people, myself included, moved away from the island to attend university and did not return, having made a life and career for themselves elsewhere. Why then should young people with fresh innovative ideas be drawn across the pond, when there is a wealth of opportunities to be had on the island?

These young people are taking their first steps in their career’s future and have unlimited options available to them. It is up to us as employers, parents and teachers to give these young people the knowledge they need to make an informed decision on what is best for their future and support from schools is a good place to start.

An example of such is St. Ninian’s High School. They recently held a Careers Focus week to help the young people in year 9 to decide their GCSE options. The idea behind the sessions was to have various professionals from different sectors based on the island give their views and share their experiences, to help the students make an informed decision on their future.

PDMS was invited to attend to represent the IT industry on the island, so together with MICTA, myself and Owen respectively talked about our own journeys that lead us to our present day careers.

The students selected which sessions they wished to attend, and our session was particularly popular with around 80-90 young people in attendance. The energy in the room was extremely positive and I believe this was mainly down to Steve (Mr. Clague to the students) who was the driving force behind Careers Week. He introduced the session and explained who we were and why we were there. He frequently joined the discussions to ask questions that the students may have been too nervous to ask. It was great to see an educator being so highly involved in the process and it would be great to see this level of enthusiasm echoed throughout the education system.

Owen, who represented MICTA, had a much more academic journey than my own and he aspired to be involved in IT from an early age. MICTA support apprenticeships on the island and provide the ‘Code Club’ which introduces simple coding to young people in a fun way. Clubs like these help young people to get a head start in related careers as they have already had hands-on experience of what is to come.

It was also highlighted to the students that there is a vast array of professions available in the IT industry from the more technical developer or infrastructure side to the more creative design and marketing roles. An IT company is very much like a community with people of different skills from every walk of life. This rich tapestry means that people of all talents can easily become part of this creative industry and, in contrast to what is often depicted on television, IT jobs are very rarely ‘dull’ or ‘nerdy’.

My own journey, and hence my discussion with the students, was much more focussed on skills rather than qualifications. When I left school, I didn’t have a specific career in mind so I studied a degree which I found interesting and after graduating I worked in retail until the ‘right job’ came along.

There is much to be said about the skills that can be gained when working in a retail environment. You acquire excellent customer service and people skills. Communication is key when working in a public environment and an element of problem-solving skills and self-management are needed. There can be occasions that call for on the spot decisions and to have the ability and confidence to calmly and effectively resolve an issue creates great character. Consequently, then as a customer yourself, this experience gives you much higher respect for the people working in that sector.

It was these skills that opened the door to me at PDMS. Although I didn’t have a technical background my previous experiences gave me the right skill set for my current role as a Support Analyst.

My advice to the young people in the room was to gain experiences and skills that make them stand out as an individual. It is easy to get caught up in being pointed down a specific path but, at the end of the day, it is never too late to start something new.

PDMS is highly involved in reaching out to young people on the island by supporting the work experience programme and attending careers fairs and sessions in schools like this one. If sessions like these continue, then the young people of the island will have their eyes opened to a plethora of opportunities that make the Isle of Man a great place where they can stay and grow within their chosen career path.

Who knows if any of the young people took on board the wisdom we imparted but if even one student could make a more informed decision based on our advice, then the experience was 100% worth it!

Leigh Churchill

Leigh Churchill, Support Analyst