Many young adults are returning to school after a long summer and preparing for their final year. They are naturally concerned about their forthcoming exams and already considering which university they would like to attend. Very few of those young adults will be considering an apprenticeship because society and their parents believe that the only way to secure a successful career is by undertaking a degree at university, despite the fact that a recent report by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit found that around one in 12 graduates were without work six months after leaving university, and that the number of ex-students in non-graduate jobs had risen by 6pc in 2012 - as bad as it's been since the 1990s recession.
Some 32% of businesses fell short of recruitment targets last year (2012) after complaining that graduate skill levels did not meet their requirements. Some employers said they did not have the time or money to re-train students who joined lacking key skills, according to a report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
According to figures released in April 2013, former apprentices are outpacing their peers when it comes to being fit for the workplace. According to the Chartered Management Institute, ICM Research revealed that employers in England rate qualified apprentices as 15% more employable than those with other qualifications.
2 The Chance to be part of an apprentice movement
This year I have been lucky enough to be selected as one of 14 industry apprentices to sit on the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), funded by awarding organisations EAL and IMI Awards. The IAC enables apprentices to speak with government ministers, policy makers and other influential organisations, to put forward our views and ideas and help to better promote apprenticeships. This is an amazing opportunity I have been presented with, one of which I am sure I would not experience if I had gone to University.
3 Developing skills and knowledge in the workplace
By leaving school and undertaking an apprenticeship I am able to develop key skills and gain relevant experiences that keep pace with the demands of employers. When friends leave university at 22 years of age, I will have been working for Vauxhall Motors for four years and at that time I hope to have gained a permanent position within the company. In the event that Vauxhall cannot offer me a permanent position, I believe that the skills that I have gained will give me a competitive edge in the job market over friends who will be leaving university.
4 Learning to integrate and develop effective relationships within a diverse workforce
Being in the workplace provides me with the opportunity to work alongside and with people of different genders, religions, races and age groups. These working relationships give me the opportunity to develop new skills, such as team working, that you would not otherwise gain from social and purely educational situations, such as those at school or university.
In any business, teamwork is not only the key to success but in today's market it can be critical to the survival of the organisation. The skills that people need to work within a team are not just learnt, they have to be practiced.
5 Undertaking a sponsored degree
I am not against higher education; on the contrary I believe that all young adults should seek the opportunity to undertake a degree or degree level professional qualifications. However, I don't believe that you have to go to university to do so.
A large number of companies sponsor their apprentices to undertake a relevant degree and or degree level professional qualification. I am currently undertaking a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies and I hope that Vauxhall Motors will allow me to undertake further studies to attain a full degree. My degree is a key aspect of my career development action plan and, in the event that the company is unable to continue to sponsor me for the further year, I will pay for the final years myself. My degree will not have cost me the best part of £27,000 and does not require that I take student loans to pay for accommodation and other expenses.
In relation to future earnings, which is often cited as a reason to attend university, my degree will afford me the exact same contract of employment opportunities as those of university graduates.
6 Maintaining own circle of friends and benefitting from the support and normality that they provide
I can understand why some people are keen to attend university to make new friends and take advantage of the numerous organised social activities. However, higher education is not the only way to do this.
I already have a wide circle of friends, several of whom I have known for many years and can trust implicitly. I do enjoy socialising with my friends and thanks to my apprenticeship I have the funds to do so.
I have made many new friends at work and I believe that network will provide me with valuable support for many years to come. For many students, the social aspect of university is the biggest draw. However, I do not feel that I have missed out on this at all by being in an apprenticeship.
7 Earning a wage
Vauxhall provide me with a very good salary which enables me to maintain a good standard of living. I have recently purchased my second new car since joining the company and as mentioned in a previous blog, I am able to afford to holiday abroad with my friends. I am saving regularly and feel that at some point in the future I will be able to afford to place a deposit on my own place to live, (not that I'm in a rush to leave home).
8 Not compiling a large educational debt
Attending university is now very expensive, usually requiring students to burden themselves with a large debt in order to pay for the experience. I could not contemplate facing my future as a young adult with such a debt and even though the student mantra is "you don't have to start paying it back until you earn x amount", the fact remains that you have to pay it back.
When a student sits down with a financial advisor in the future, to ask for a loan for example, they will have to declare their university debt. It will come out of their wages in the future, or they will save up to pay it off instead of saving to buy a house. Student debt is a millstone around the neck of those at the start of their careers, however you look at it.
9 Developing workplace discipline
Going straight from school to the workplace has enabled me to develop a high level of self discipline, which is essential in any business. I know my undergraduate friends will talk of the self discipline required in order to complete assignments on time and to prepare for exams. However, if a student does not complete an assignment on time or fails an exam the only person to suffer hardship is the student, whereas in the business world failing to complete any piece of work on time can have a detrimental effect on the whole company. Students can be given an extension to the submission date of an assignment, re-sit exams and re-sit a whole year, if necessary, in the event of a fail; that luxury does not exist in the business world. There are no re-sits for failure, only the exit door.
10 Leaving full time education
I did not enjoy my time at school, whilst I am career orientated, I did not want to continue my personal development and growth solely in the educational system.
To have the opportunity to move into the workplace and develop my career through the apprenticeship scheme was a huge attraction to me. I really enjoy working with experienced and mature people who respect my needs and are genuinely interested in my development. I am happy to be held accountable and enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of producing work to the standard required and within timescale. I enjoy the company of my colleagues and have fun at work.