Iona Aitken, QA Apprentice with Commsworld and North Lanarkshire Council


Iona, QA Apprentice AwardA trailblazing apprentice from North Lanarkshire is encouraging others to consider following in her career path.

Iona Aitken, 20, from Cumbernauld, was among the first cohort to join the North Lanarkshire Council and Commsworld apprenticeship programme, which provides young people with opportunities to pursue skilled jobs within the tech sector.

Today, on International Women’s Day, she tells her story of how she became an apprentice and how she hopes to encourage other girls to follow in her footsteps and consider STEM careers, and jobs in tech.

Iona says:

“I grew up in Cumberland, where I went to Greenfaulds High School. At the time I really was the least technically-minded pupil in my year. I wasn’t really interested in computers, I was much more into social sciences, psychology and English. I was looking at perhaps a career as a therapist when I left school.

“But that all changed when COVID happened and we went into lockdown. I stayed with a friend during that time, and she was studying software development as an apprentice. I got to see what was involved, how she was part of meetings, and it looked like she was really making a difference in her workplace. It really inspired me and I asked lots of questions.

“I was at college at the time, and I thought to myself that instead of writing essays I should follow suit and get out to the workplace. I wasn’t looking to go to university, I wanted to get real workplace experience. That’s when I found out about QA and apprenticeships.

“I applied for a position, but QA suggested that I looked at the Commsworld-North Lanarkshire Council apprenticeship in IT which were looking for applicants. By that time I had begun studying in my own time online courses on IT. So QA provided me with a mentor, and she took me through the process, to the point of providing advice on the day.”

“It was quite daunting as I was still very inexperienced when it came to IT. I thought when I applied it would be a long shot and might count against me. But I was really delighted to be called for an in-person interview.

“When I got there, there were 10 of us and I was the only woman. I had a written test, a maths test and then a talking group. I sat and listened to the others chat about how they took PCs apart. I’d hardly looked at a PC let alone take it apart! I thought I might as well go home now.

“But I gave it my best shot, and two weeks later I was really thrilled to get a phone call to be told I’d been successful. The first person I rang was my mentor. She was delighted too.

“My apprenticeship has been terrific. I’ve split my time between North Lanarkshire Council and Commsworld. At Commsworld I’ve been involved in project management, and been out on jobs seeing first-hand what’s done. The best moment was being involved with the 2023 Cycling World Championships, where Commsworld provided the connectivity for the event. I loved being there, and was really sad when it finished.

“My apprenticeship finishes in September, and I’m really looking forward to getting a job in the sector. The apprenticeship has been so worthwhile, and I’ve been a QA Ambassador going to schools across the central belt telling pupils how fantastic it’s been and encouraging them to try it – especially if they’re like me and are not necessarily thinking of going to university.

“I also really want to encourage more girls into STEM and the tech sector, including those who like me aren’t necessarily technically or computer minded at school. I’d tell them that education is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s OK to have no prior experience if they suddenly decide that they want to go into tech. Don’t be put off, you won’t know if you can do it unless you actually try.”