Luther Knight has launched Digitally Maintained – an IT support service run by student volunteers. The service aims to give free technical support, while enabling the volunteers to gain valuable work experience, bolstering their employment prospects.
Knight, who is studying for a BSc in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence at City University London, has recruited a network of computing students from universities around the UK.
“I asked university students because they have been studying for quite a while so they know what they’re talking about,” he explains. “I thought it would be a good idea to both use their skills to help people who need technical support, but either can’t afford it or don’t know where to look, and help them get experience of troubleshooting and customer liaison during their degrees.”
How it works
Knight created the database for the Digitally Maintained website with two university friends who also helped produce a series of tutorials addressing some of the most common IT problems.
“At the moment we have 15-20 permanent volunteers and we all work from home,” he says. “We log into the site and when a customer submits a question it’s stored on the system. Everything is colour-coded so you can see if something’s been answered or if anything has already been assigned – and my colleagues can choose what they want to help out with. At the end of the process I can see who has answered what and get the customers’ feedback.”
Something more to show on the CV
In addition to hands-on experience, student volunteers also receive a letter of recommendation to show potential employers and get credited for solutions that they come up with – like creating apps.
But it’s not just the volunteers who have something more to show on their CVs. Knight, who previously took a year out of his degree course to gain experience in systems support for IBM, is hoping that his Digitally Maintained venture will bolster his own employment prospects.
“The idea is that every one taking part has something more to show on their CVs and it’s the same for me. I've founded a company working with people helping to resolve issues - so in a market saturated with graduates with little or no experience – this may give me an edge when I eventually go to interviews.”
Currently Digitally Maintained is looking to expand by offering free tailored support to consumers, businesses, charities and public sector organisations and will be recruiting marketing and business studies students, as well as computing ones. But will the service continue after Knight graduates in 2012?
“The service is actually costing me money although we have received some small donations. I guess when I move on I will need to re-access. If it continues to grow and be as successful hopefully I will be able to pass the reins onto somebody else.”
To seek advice or to join the team, visit www.digitallymaintained.com.