Swapping aprons for algorithms: Skills Bootcamp helps Blackburn chef launch tech career

A Blackburn chef has transformed his career prospects as a digital technician after successfully upskilling in technology through a free Skills Bootcamp training course.

Quinn Towler, 21, trained as a chef at Blackburn College and soon landed jobs working at a local golf club and hotel. However, he soon realised that while he was passionate about cooking, the long hours and intense environment of working in a real kitchen were having a serious impact on his mental health.

He began looking at alternative career paths and while he had always had an interest in video games, he had no previous experience in technology.

Quinn from Feniscowles found out about the training and development opportunities available through the digital Skills Bootcamps at Skills City, operated by Lancashire-based skills and talent provider IN4 Group.

He was curious to explore the technology sector, which was particularly attractive with the unlimited earning potential it offered. Digital remains as one of the top 10 employment sectors in Lancashire, showing the need for continued upskilling. Data analysts are particularly in huge demand and could earn up to £35,000 after just a few years.

Quinn signed up for the fully funded, 12-week Cloud Engineering Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start bootcamp, where he learnt about cloud computing, networking, Python programming and databases.

The programme was flexible and fully remote with a guaranteed job interview available at the end of the course, as well as the chance to work on a real-life commercial project with industry employers. Skills City partners with leading employers including IBM, KPMG UK, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, which Quinn had the opportunity to directly work with.

As a chef, he learnt to commit recipes to memory and remember exact amounts for ingredients – a skill which came in useful when memorising multiple AWS services and how they complimented each other.

While his ability to get 10 different dishes ready at the same time in a kitchen, meant he thrived at project management and meeting deadlines. Quinn explained: “I think there’s often an assumption that all tech roles require hard skills like coding, but for me, it’s these soft skills that have helped me in my role today.”

At the end of the course, Quinn received job offers from a few of the organisations he had been introduced to during the programme, including IN4 Group, which recognised his potential and offered him a role as a digital technician, which he accepted.

He said: “After the stressful environment of a busy kitchen, finding the right working environment was important and I chose IN4 Group because of the culture and the supportive nature of the team.”

Six months into his career in technology, Quinn has already been promoted to a senior digital technician, where he is responsible for working with the delivery teams to ensure the smooth running of future tech bootcamps.

“Going on that journey myself, I feel much more qualified to understand what’s working well and where we can improve, and I’m currently working to analyse and manage different data sets as part of that,” he added.

Led by Blackburn-born, Mo Isap, Skills City trains over 1000 people every year into technology careers and apprenticeship starts and aims to provide fair access to all. This includes those from the most diverse backgrounds that may be underrepresented or disadvantaged, career changers or breakers, return-to-work mums or unemployed.

Quinn said: “For anyone doubting whether a tech bootcamp is for them – don’t! One of the things that put me off initially was the belief that it would be expensive and take up a lot of time but there are so many routes that are making a career in tech more accessible – whatever your background may be.”