A rising IT star has scooped two national awards thanks to his work for a leading Teesside computer tech firm.
Liam Sharpe, 22, has taken the titles of Network Engineer of the Year and Apprentice of the Year thanks to his work at Wilton-based technology company Tekgem.
The annual awards are run by his apprenticeship provider Intequal who selected Liam from candidates from across the country, studying a variety of IT disciplines.
Liam, from Eston, Middlesbrough, said: “It was a fantastic surprise to find out that I’d won.
“I took my girlfriend and mum to the event in Birmingham and it was lovely to see their reactions too. It was a really nice event and a little bit overwhelming to discover I’d won.”
With two BTECs and an A-Level under his belt, Liam applied for a Level 3 Advanced IT, Software Web and Telecoms Apprenticeship with Tekgem before moving to an advanced Level 4 Network Engineer programme.
He worked a 40-hour week, which included half-a-day’s training at his desk through online interactive instructor-led tutorials and self-study at home.
Liam says one of the main benefits of his apprenticeship is earning whilst learning, not being saddled with university debt – and ultimately securing a long-term job as an Infrastructure Engineer as a result.
He said: “My apprenticeship has been fantastic from start to finish.
“I think the balance of learning skills whilst actually working is a beneficial one and for me the preferred one over university.
“I knew I wanted to do IT but the courses I looked at university-wise didn’t offer value for money in my opinion.
“I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to friends and family – and in fact already do.”
Liam is currently troubleshooting advanced IT technical issues, implementing new solutions for large petrochemical companies and helping look after 800 devices including servers, switches, routers and firewalls.
Ian Gemski, director at Tekgem, said: “We are delighted for Liam and he absolutely deserves the acclaim. I think he has a fantastic future with Tekgem ahead of him.
“Getting apprentices in at that entry-level is ideal for us because we can train them in the way we work.
“The problem now is that graduates coming out of university are expecting an advanced role and salary in the IT industry to justify the cost of their university fees, when unfortunately, they don’t have the knowledge or experience.
“I also believe that starting at the bottom gives them a grounding and a greater understanding to carry out the job. You’ve got to get that fundamental knowledge in place before you can further your career, which unfortunately no textbook can give you.”
He added: “Technology is moving so fast that the best place to learn it now, is at the front line, in a live work environment.”
Russell Collins, Principal Consultant at Intequal, said: “Liam has been a committed and dedicated learner since first joining as a Level 3 apprentice.
“Now having completed his Level 4 Network Engineer course, it is of little surprise that Liam has won these awards with us.
“He has been a credit to Intequal, a credit to Tekgem his employer, but more over a credit to himself.”
He added: “Liam should be very proud of his achievements, as we are of him. We wish him the very best in his future career and we are sure he will be a success.”