How My Apprenticeship Changed My Life

08/08/2016 12:05 | Updated 08 August 2016

Doing a Higher Apprenticeship in engineering at JCB has changed my life. I work as a design engineer four days a week, and study for an engineering degree one day. I have a salary, no student debt, and the support to pass my degree and become successful within the company.

Apprenticeships are about gaining qualifications while working for a company which pays you to do so. They are about developing skills to work with people to achieve success within a business, to gain experience of how industry works and to start a career.

Studying at University was never really what I wanted when leaving Sixth Form. I realised this after a conversation with my Sixth Form Tutor who reviewed my personal statement for my UCAS application. We both agreed that my heart just wasn't in studying at University. I was keen to start my career and so applied to engineering companies offering apprenticeships.

I find it difficult to remember how I felt when considering my future after school as doing an apprenticeship is something I've never looked back on, I've never thought "what if?" and I've never had any regrets. I have always had the mind-set that I will achieve whatever I want to and after all the hard work I put into my A-Levels, I wasn't going to be stopped by anything. I knew what my end goal was, and if that meant breaking the mould, then so be it.

I think that the perception of apprenticeships are that they are designed for people who might not get the grades to go to university, or for practical careers, but I had 5 university offers, and in two years from now I will have a BEng in Mechanical Engineering.

One of the major attractions to university is the social life and moving away from home. While the structure of an apprenticeship is very different to university, these opportunities are still available. I moved away from my parents at the same time as all my friends moved away to university, I lived in a house with other JCB apprentices and with undergraduates and graduates living on the same road. This was great for me, as I met loads of new people my age. Although I don't live in a big city as most university students do, we have a great social life, and thanks to the salary, we can afford to go out and do things without worrying if the student loan will cover it.

The advantages of an apprenticeship are that you get paid to study and the qualifications are all paid for. When I finish my apprenticeship, I'll have a guaranteed job as I'll have been working in the role for three years. I won't have to worry about repaying student debt, or not having enough experience to get the job I want, or not being able to get a job at all.

I've learnt so much more than I could ever imagine through my apprenticeship with JCB, and most of that has been through personal development. It's exciting to be 19 and to be able to walk into a meeting with people with years of experience and knowledge, and learn from them and to be able to contribute to the meeting. It's equally as thrilling to be able to make decisions and to come up with new ideas and exceed people's expectations of a 19 year old female, and show them that nothing can stop you achieving whatever you want to.

As I finish my second year with JCB, I now realise that my apprenticeship is so much more for me than just earning and learning. I have become more independent; not relying on my parents for financial support, and being able to move away from home and still make it to work for 8am without my Dad waking me up in the mornings and my Mum cooking my tea each night. I have become more confident, and feel more self-assured when I have to approach people to help me and when colleagues approach me for information. I have become more positive when facing challenges; knowing that mistakes are guaranteed, but that is part of being an apprentice and people are willing to help you learn.

The 'Get In Go Far' campaign has been a great chance to let people know that apprenticeships are for anyone in many types of career. Through meeting the other apprentices involved, I have found that although different skills are required for different industry sectors and roles, the one common quality apprentices have are their drive to be successful.

My advice would be to investigate all your options including apprenticeships, and find out about the opportunities that are available to you, and don't let anything stop you achieving your goals.