Throughout my A-Level studies I was weighing up the pros and cons of University or applying for an apprenticeship. I felt that both teachers and students at my secondary school only viewed University as the next option after A-levels. Apprenticeships were discussed, but not really taken seriously.
For me, carrying on the traditional education route did not feel like the right thing to do. I didn't like producing assignments and preferred a more practical approach to learning. However I had worked really hard and was awarded 3 A-levels in 2014 and secured my place at Brunel University, but was still unsure if this was the route I wanted to take.
Two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for London, I had a real change of heart. I told my parents I didn't want to go as it was not the best option for me. They were very confused and didn't understand how an apprenticeship could benefit me more than a degree. Like many parents, they assumed that a degree was, put simply, the 'right' path to take.
I have always been interested in Marketing so started to look at how I could enter this industry without a degree qualification. I found that Lloyds Banking Group offered a post A-level qualification, as a Higher Apprentice. I applied, and after the online tests, telephone interview and assessment centre, secured the role.
I genuinely feel like I have the best of both worlds on the apprenticeship programme, as it couples learning about theory with practical on the job learning. In contrast, all of my friends opted for university, mainly because they had never heard of Higher Apprenticeships. They are now studying for their finals while looking to secure permanent graduate jobs, whereas I'm secure in a role with a company that fully supports apprenticeships, earning money without any debt.
Do I think it's the right decision? Yes. I've gained so much experience to help me in my career and worked on various interesting campaigns and projects. For example, I redesigned an email to welcome customers to a new product which was exciting as I knew that lots of people were going to receive the letter I produced. I wanted to start earning money and start saving rather than being in debt. This has helped me as I'm now saving towards purchasing my own home at the age of twenty.
Companies need to continue to spread the word and encourage students to consider apprenticeships as a viable alternative to traditional post-A Level routes. They should spend time in schools and colleges to really explain the benefits of the schemes, as many students are apprehensive to not go with the norm of university. If they knew the opportunities and flexibility I have benefited from, as well as earning a wage I think people would jump at the chance. It's all about raising awareness and demonstrating a mind-set change that apprenticeships are equally, if not more valuable, than degrees.