It’s results day and there are tears everywhere; elation, relief, disappointment. Everything you’ve worked for and been funnelled towards since the age of 4 on one sheet of paper, one computer screen - the promise land that is university is finally within touching distance. Once you’re accepted, you graduate and your degree will unlock all kinds of doors and you’ll be set. Right?
At 6th form, everything was very university-centric and if you thought of doing something as outrageous as an apprenticeship, you were almost seen as an outcast. There were classes and mentors to help with UCAS applications, whilst the word apprenticeship was muttered under the breath – briefly - during assembly.
So, there I was with my acceptance offer, congratulations ringing around the room, finding out who got into where without really thinking about how monumental the piece of paper in my hand was. At 18 years old, I was holding my entire future, and when I thought about it, it terrified me. Was I really prepared to commit down this path for the rest of my life? I didn’t have any other choice, it was uni or bust. That’s what I thought anyway.
I felt, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, that an apprenticeship was beneath me. If you want to be successful you have to go to university; that’s the common misconception that seems to have been brainwashed into students, myself included.
It wasn’t until I was sat in my first lecture that I realised I’d made a mistake. One innocuous statement from the lecturer, in fact just one word, and it made me question my decision to go to university. Experience.
The working world revolves around experience. A degree from Sheffield or Exeter might get you a foot in the door and secure an interview, but how do you compete with the candidate that’s actually been doing the job for the last five years? The candidate who knows a 9-5, 8-6, or 7-7 like the back of their hand. The candidate who was in bed ready for work the next day whilst you were out for Fresher’s Week.
University may be fun, but I wasn’t willing to pay £9,000 a year for fun. I did my research, looked at jobs I could get once I’d graduated, and it opened my eyes to how vital experience is to an employer. I implore you to a find a job that you’d be happy in, one in your field that doesn’t require ‘at least one years’ experience in a similar role’ or words to that effect. Experience is the key and that’s exactly what an apprenticeship gives you.
It was not a decision I took lightly but leaving university for an apprenticeship is by far the best one I’ve made. The most reassuring thing about it for me was that it doesn’t mean university isn’t an option.
If I had started an apprenticeship and decided it wasn’t for me, I could have treated it as a gap year, earnt some money, and just reapplied for university next year. The cost of university however means it’s such a commitment without any real exploration first.
So, I applied and secured an apprenticeship and I love it. Everything from having money to the sense of responsibility, from the pride when your work is praised to the opportunities for growth.
There are so many myths and rumours that surround an apprenticeship; being treated poorly because you’re low down, a lack of work and responsibility, or even being taken advantage merely because you’re an apprentice. It’s just not true.
Modern day apprenticeships are becoming increasingly like a normal job, with the added benefit of a qualification at the end of it. I am, along with every other apprentice at the company, treated the same as any other member of staff (and I promise there’s no-one standing with a gun to my head making me write this!).
An apprenticeship won’t be for everyone, the same way that university wasn’t for me, but it’s certainly an option that should be promoted more at schools and taken advantage of by students.