I've always enjoyed learning and quite liked being at school as a teenager. Choosing to stay on to study for my A levels was kind of a natural progression for me and seemed to be what most of my mates were interested in doing as well. I didn't know anything about Apprenticeships at school, I think they'd been mentioned in passing, but there was never much information available when I was deciding what I wanted to do. If there had been, I'd definitely have started one sooner, after my GCSEs.
I achieved good grades for my A levels (in maths, chemistry, physics and biology) and seriously considered going to university, I even completed a UCAS form, but then I decided that I wanted to start earning money as soon as possible. Also, higher education was going to be quite expensive and the last thing I wanted to do was get into debt while studying. However, continuing my learning was always very important to me, so the plan was to try and see what on-the-job training I could get involved with through my employment.
I was lucky to land an administration job at Mad Science in Nottingham. The company teaches young people science in an interesting and engaging way by running workshops, going into schools to run classes, attending fairs and even running children's parties. The head office is in Nottingham and that's where I'm from and still live, so I was really pleased to get a job there.
After a month or so, my employer and I started to look at apprenticeships. The office manager had been an apprentice herself and was really positive about how one could benefit me. The company had another apprentice working for them too, so clearly felt it was a good business decision to continue training up more staff. Kaplan worked with me and my employer to find the right Apprenticeship at the right level for me, and then I started my Business and Administration Apprenticeship shortly after.
The whole experience has been excellent. 12 months ago when I started, I was responsible for most of the day to day interaction with customers, as well as making sure the office was running as it should be and supporting the wider team. Learning on the job is a learning curve, but, combining this with studying for my qualification was really rewarding.
Fitting in a full time job and studying took some getting used to though, but luckily my employer was really supportive and gave me allocated time at work when I could make sure I was getting through all of my Apprenticeship assessment work. Kaplan supported me with gathering all of the relevant paperwork and evidence I needed to pass my assessment and gain my qualification, which was a real help.
At the time, part of my job was assisting with finance in the company and this was the element I particularly enjoyed, so following the completion of my Business and Administration Apprenticeship, I've started an Accountancy Apprenticeship. Now I'm responsible for all orders in the company, raising the invoices, collating all of the end of week and monthly reports, and I work with my director who mentors me for one day each week. I absolutely love coming to work every day and feel like I'm using the enthusiasm I've always had for maths, in a productive way. I'm certain that this will be my career direction and I want to continue to study for my professional accountancy qualifications in a couple of years.
It's worrying to hear reports of such high youth unemployment and I feel really lucky that I'm not one of those statistics. I can see how it happens though, when I was searching for a job and considering what to do, every job needed work-relevant experience and appropriate training, but if you are coming straight from school or university, then it is really hard to have either. That's what is great about apprenticeships! I've got a younger sister and it has been good to be able to tell her more about apprenticeships. Originally she was considering higher education, but following my lead, I think she is serious about taking the Apprenticeship route instead.
Choosing what to do with your life is never going to be an easy decision to make as a young person, but for me, apprenticeships really offered exactly what I was looking for. I think some people still think becoming an apprentice is only something a young person chooses to do if other doors are closed to them, but this just is not true. I could have gone to university, but chose not to. Apprenticeships are just an alternative, but one that can be the right choice for many others like me.
Young people can find out more about Apprenticeships in their area by visiting: www.kaplanapprenticeships.co.uk