With the average student graduating with around £44,000 of debt and the graduate earning prospects at some universities being uncomfortably low, there's been a surge in school-leavers embarking on apprenticeships rather than packing their bags for freshers week.
Research collated in a Sutton Trust report this week notes the extent to which some young people may be better earning and learning on good apprenticeships than on a degree course with poor prospects. The report calls for "many more high level apprenticeships".
Spencer Mehlman, managing director of apprenticeship website Not Going to Uni told the Huffington Post: "While the traditional academic route is still the best fit for a large number of young people in the UK, apprenticeships are now seen as a viable alternative.
"The average degree will cost students in excess of £50,000. This represents a huge commitment for anyone who is considering their options for further study.
"At Not Going to Uni we’ve seen as steady increase over the last 12 months in both the number of apprenticeship opportunities advertised and the applications received for those roles.
There’s no doubt that the thousands of clients we work with implicitly trust apprenticeships as a way of developing and improving their workforce."
We spoke to three people who chose apprenticeships over going to university, to hear about the support they received, the skills they learnt and whether they feel they have 'missed out' by shirking the unay experience...
Daniel Bailey is a digital executive at Whiteoaks PR
"The idea of 'earn while you learn' really appealed to me"
"I wanted to get my foot on the career ladder after leaving college and that’s exactly what a PR apprenticeship at Whiteoaks offered me. The idea of 'earn while you learn' really appealed to me, plus it meant that I didn’t have to worry about any of those student debts that everyone talks about!
"My family thought it was a great idea and were fully supportive of my decision. My sister had already completed an apprenticeship in hairdressing, so we knew first hand that apprenticeships are not only capable, but a great way to kick-start your career.
"I learnt loads, from basic office skills, which can’t be taught in a classroom, to being able to consult and give advice to clients on their PR campaigns. I’ve been able to gain a range of invaluable skills throughout my apprenticeship, which I firmly believe I would never have had the opportunity to learn if I went to university.
At Whiteoaks PR, Daniel learnt "basic office skills, which can’t be taught in a classroom"
"I wouldn’t say I’ve missed out on not going to university. I feel like my apprenticeship has put me in a solid position to progress my career and that’s all down to the experience I’ve been able to get under my belt, as well as the new skills I’ve gained.
"If you're considering doing an apprenticeship instead of going to uni then get out there and do it! There are loads of different apprenticeships available nowadays, you’re bound to find something that takes your interest. I really couldn’t think of a better way to begin your career if you’re fresh out of school or college."
Mandy Young is an accounts assistant at Postcode Anywhere
"Now I’m seeing some of my friends struggling to get a job waiting tables when I’m working for a hugely successful company"
"I always knew that I wanted to follow a career in accounts and when I weighed up all the options I decided that there was no need for me to go to university when I could start earning straight away.
"My family were really supportive, in fact it was my mum who suggested that I look into doing an apprenticeship.
"By going straight into work, I think I grew up a lot quicker than some of my friends who decided to go to university. Suddenly I was making things happen for myself rather than waiting for someone else to do them, whereas all my friends still seemed to be bringing their washing home for their parents to do!
"Sometimes, when I hear people talk about some of the fun and the friends they met at university, I do feel a little jealous. However if I didn’t follow the path I did, I probably wouldn’t have ended up working at Postcode Anywhere, a job which I really enjoy and continues to help me grow.
"I was told I was too clever to NOT go to university and I was looked down on in college because I wasn’t following the same path as everyone else, but now that I’m seeing some of them struggling to get a job waiting tables when I’m working for a hugely successful company, where I get free lunches, work alongside some amazing people and get to study for my CIMA qualification at the same time!"
Chloe Greenwood works for specialist digital agency Engage Comms Ltd
"The school I attended was very university driven so there wasn’t much support for students who didn’t want to go down that route"
"My apprenticeship was an advanced business administration course which involved attending college one day a week whilst working the rest of the week at my placement over the period of a year. I worked for a Yorkshire based PR/marketing consultancy where, following my apprenticeship, I progressed to client support manager.
"I chose to do an apprenticeship rather than go to university as I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to do in the future, and with university fees going up I didn’t want to waste money on a course that I might not enjoy and that might not actually assist me in my future career.
"My father started his career by doing an apprenticeship and now runs his own business, so my family was very supportive of my decision. However, the school I attended was very university driven so there wasn’t much support for students who didn’t want to go down that route. I did all of the research myself and attended a business open evening to get more information about what an apprenticeship entailed.
Chloe's apprenticeship was an advanced business administration course at Craven College in north Yorkshire
"I haven’t completely ruled out ever going to University but I would only do so when the time felt right and I would focus on choosing a more vocational course if I thought that it would enhance my career. At this stage I don’t feel like I have missed out at all as the experience that I have gained, working for two dynamic businesses, has given me so much insight.
"Don’t follow the crowd and go to university because you’re too scared to do something different or feel like you should. I always performed well academically and easily had the grades to get onto a good course but it just didn’t feel like the right choice for me. I was the only one out of my group of friends who didn’t go on to live the student life and I have absolutely no regrets."