It’s that time of year when young people up and down the country are getting their results; the simple list of numbers and letters that give a verdict on their performance during their school years as well as determining what the next step in their lives will be.
For the last few years, I’ve been asked by the media one simple question. It’s normally para-phrased or dressed up in some way, but the underlying question is clear:
‘How can a young person who failed to get the grades they expected/wanted get into an apprenticeship?’ It’s a question that I refuse to answer.
The question itself reflects a huge degree of ignorance on behalf of the interviewers, and to be honest, the media as a whole. For too long, apprenticeships have been painted as the route to take if you’re not quite good enough to go to University.
Apprenticeships have struggled for some time with their image in the UK. In other countries around the world, Apprenticeships are seen as being the normal or best route into a wide range of professions. In this country, we have been unhealthily fixated on degrees for far too long. The natural assumption is that if someone is successful, they must have a degree. We are overly conditioned to the face that high-fliers must have come from Oxbridge / Russell Group / A.N Other University. In many cases, we don’t even know that business or political leaders have come through one of these other routes.
Entry routes for high fliers have changed a lot in recent years. This isn’t through some vague sense of social justice, but a very sharp understanding by businesses that recruiting non-graduates into programmes – more often than not apprenticeships – can deliver better results.
What can you do?
If you are a school leaver deciding on your next step, the most important thing is to take some time to understand all the options open to you. In the days when University was ‘free’ – back in the 1990s – it was undoubtedly an attractive option. These days, the massive – and I mean MASSIVE – debt that you will rack up must be a factor in any decision. If you are sure that University is the best way of entering your chosen profession, you should absolutely do it. If you aren’t sure, it is a huge gamble to begin adult life with over £30,000 of debt. In many cases, apprenticeships offer you the chance to get a great job with a great company, and in some cases, earn a degree along the way. In fact, this is a more attractive option for many young people. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly competitive.
So, if you weren’t fortunate enough to get the grades you had hoped for, then an apprenticeship might be something you could consider. If, however, you’ve got great grades, then you may be lucky enough to get a great apprenticeship with a great employer. You’ll get paid, paid holidays, earn a qualification and have 3 years more experience than any graduate will have.
A Great example...
One of my favourite stories from last year that really illustrates the changing environment is a candidate who applied – but was not successful – for a degree apprenticeship with a large engineering employer. As a result, they had to take up their second choice. A place on a three-year undergraduate degree at a Russell Group university.
David Allison, CEO GetMyFirstJob