When I was at college, like a lot of people, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had always performed well at school; I was thrilled to achieve an A and two B grades in my A levels and I loved studying History, Business Studies and ICT. But what next?
The natural progression seemed to be the university route. There was a massive assumption that I would go on to work towards a degree; that's what my friends were planning to do and it's what the advisors at college expected from us.
Somehow, though, it just didn't feel right. Although it made sense to everybody else, it just didn't make sense to me. No matter how I felt, though, choosing anything else felt like swimming against the tide.
Firstly, university was so expensive. From my part time job, I knew of several people who had chosen the university route only to find a few months or even years down the line, and usually several thousand pounds later, that they had made a mistake. Even when thinking about those that were still passionate about their field and motivated to work in their chosen subject, many just couldn't find the work that they were qualified and ready for.
While I understand that some professions require a university education, mine in business did not. I believed the experience would count far more in my favour in addition to education; and I felt that I'd have more chance to excel and prove myself if I was working in the industry, than sitting in a classroom. There were swings and roundabouts to both paths, but for me, my mind was made up. There was no way I wanted to go to university.
Trying to explain my choice was such a challenge - and one I didn't expect. There were definitely times when I felt my peers looking down on me for not carrying on with a university education; it seemed like even my friends felt I wasn't making the right decision, like I was somehow opting out when really I felt like I was opting in. I know now that I was far from it and lots of young people face the same assumptions and challenges when they make their choices, but at the time it can seem like your friends are leaving you behind and it can certainly make you doubt yourself.
These experiences made me even more determined and, later, motivated me to become an Apprentice Ambassador at Fujitsu, with my training scheme delivered by apprenticeship specialists, First4Skills (www.first4skills.com). I got the Business Administration apprenticeship with Fujitsu right away, with a call coming practically as soon as I left the interview, and it gave me a huge boost. I knew I could do this and I was making the right move. Eight months later, I have never once looked back. Every morning I love waking up and coming to work; I earn a wage and pay my way, I have a great laugh with the people I work with and I'm still learning more and more all the time, honing my skills and becoming an indispensable member of the team - with a near guaranteed job at the end of it. I still just can't understand why apprenticeships are seen as a cop out; they are so far from it.
When the opportunity came up to become an Apprentice Ambassador, talking to potential future apprentices and meeting and greeting new ones as they join the company, I jumped to take part. I love welcoming new apprentices to Fujitsu, showing them the ropes and mentoring them as they find their feet. It's really rewarding - and it's made me realise how much we have in common. Most of us have shared the same situations when trying to figure out our future and make our way.
I know that the university route can be a brilliant one and many students at university go on to become very successful; but so do apprentices. As young people start to consider their options this year, I really hope more and more will consider apprenticeships. I'd also like to see more support for these people; the awareness is improving all the time, but there's a long way to go before people realise just how valuable apprenticeships can be.