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University or an apprenticeship? Is one route definitively better than the other? Which is more valuable; a degree or experience?

As an apprentice, I’m here to do some myth-busting on what being an apprentice actually entails and how to get involved with the scheme.

In my case, I wasn’t sure that university was for me. I am the kind of person who likes to learn things in a practical and hands-on way, as opposed to learning from books, lectures or classes. So, I decided to apply for an apprenticeship.

There are a number of ways to apply for an apprenticeship. I got in contact with a company called Future Unlimited who assist young people in finding apprenticeships. Future Unlimited are just one of a many companies out there who help recruit young people who have the desire to make a real contribution to a business. The programme attracts significant funding from the government, making it an extremely cost effective way to employ and train a young person.

I had to attend an interview and secured a place on a 2 week “boot-camp” which was designed to teach interpersonal skills, interview techniques, communication, listening skills, body language and CV workshops. I was grouped together with other budding apprentices and given 48 hours to prototype and pitch a product to a Dragons Den style panel made up of industry professionals.

Although no-one was guaranteed a job at the end of the boot-camp, it gave us a chance to meet with employers who were interested in recruiting an apprentice. From there, I began to liaise with Recruitmentology and an interview process secured my apprenticeship.

On a monthly basis, I am visited by an assessor from Future Unlimited, who comes to my workplace to discuss my progress. I have NVQ coursework targets which I am working towards which will enable me to earn two Level 3 BTEC Qualifications upon completion of my 12-month apprenticeship. This is really good as it allows me to get experience in the workplace for one year, accompanied with a portfolio of work to show for it. Over this period, I have been lucky enough to work with many leading tech companies such as SapientNitro and DigitasLBi. As a result, I have networked with globally influential business people; growing my network with employers and absorbing information from them.

As an apprentice here at Recruitmentology, I have gained experience in recruitment strategies and digital-marketing. Having never worked in an office before, I was unsure of the etiquette.  I am surrounded by knowledgeable professionals who have valuable life and work experience. I have learned about my boss’ background and how he built up the business from nothing. He is driven to succeed and has inspired me to try my hardest to achieve my goals.

To get the most you possibly can out of an apprenticeship, you have to commit to every single opportunity that comes your way. Don’t settle for making teas and entering data for 9 hours a day. Push yourself to be involved in parts of the company which excite you.

It’s undeniable that there are a huge number of benefits which follow from taking part in an apprenticeship, but why do thousands of young people still opt for the university path into a career?

Of course, there are some vocational careers, such as medicine, which are simply impossible to get into without a degree. However these are few and far between; many graduates go on to peruse careers which are unrelated to the content they learnt at university – so what is it about a little scroll of paper which makes a graduate so appealing in the workplace?

 

Kavita Karia, a recent graduate in Mathematics shed some light on the debate:

“The university experience helps you to work independently towards deadlines whilst becoming a master of managing your own time, which is often what makes graduates very attractive to employers.

“A huge draw for university-goers is the social aspect. Whether it’s joining sports societies or standing in the student union elections, involvement in extra-curricular activities within the University community can build confidence, improve networking skills and develop a ‘teamwork’ mentality; all of which are transferable skills into the world of work.

“As opposed to high school and sixth form, a University education allows you to fully devote your time to one subject in order to become an expert in that field. You’ll gain a deeper knowledge into a subject you love and meet like-minded people along the way. I was excited to meet and interact with lecturers and well-respected academics. I had read books that my lecturers had written and used technology which they had discovered.

“I think a problem in the current job market is the stigmatism attached to apprenticeships. Despite a huge improvement in apprenticeship schemes across the UK in recent years, some big employers still don’t value vocational apprenticeships in the same regard as degrees. Until this stereotype is eradicated, it’s unlikely that young people with good grades will ditch the university route in favour of an apprenticeship. There needs to be more awareness of the vast range of apprenticeships which are available in multiple industries. They are not just for physical trades like construction or carpentry; there are thousands of apprenticeships available in things like law and banking which I never knew about.

Although, there are so many great things about University, it is expensive and time-consuming, so the decision to attend shouldn’t be made in haste. 44% of graduates wish they’d picked a more vocational or hands-on subject as they feel it would have boosted their chances of bagging a good job.

Whichever path you choose, it is important to remember that neither an apprenticeship nor a degree will guarantee you a job. Employers are looking for extra-curricular activities and personal attributes to demonstrate your drive, dedication and reliability.

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