12/12/2012 05:44 GMT | Updated 10/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Why I Chose an Apprenticeship

I think I can speak for most young people when I say that while at school it's extremely difficult to relate to the 'real' world and see the clear future. Yet at that time we are expected to make important decisions and commitments that can have a great impact on our whole lives. Like many, I didn't know what to do when I finished college. I had, however, watched my cousins struggle to find a job when they graduated from university and I knew I didn't want to be put in that same situation. This is when I decided to explore apprenticeships in a bit more detail.

The idea to learn on the job whilst getting qualifications and salary really appealed to me. My local job centre told me about the Barclays Apprenticeship programme and I decided to apply. I was interested in ICT and Business so it seemed fitting and I was sold by the qualifications that I would receive at the end of it. I have gained a certificate in Developing Employability Skills, in Customer Service and in Personal and Social Development and I am working towards a BTEC in Customer Service and an NVQ in Retail Banking. It's these qualifications that get apprentices work-ready and provide them with knowledge relevant to their industries. Apart from financial skills, I am also developing my communication and presentation styles, which have been really valuable to my career.

I've been in the programme for six months and looking back I am certain that I have made the right decision. Nobody is looking down on me because I didn't go to university; in fact it's quite opposite actually. My colleagues often forget that I am an apprentice and I have gained respect not only from my family and peers, but also from customers. They all want me to do well and this in turn motivates me to push myself even harder. The experience has definitely matured me and I've gone from a teenager who didn't have a clue what to do, to a young adult with clear goals in my life. The Barclays apprentice programme has played a huge part in this change.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dismiss university education and I'm sure for some professions a degree is essential. I see both apprenticeships and university as means to building a career, but they are suited to different types of personalities. I am a very hands-on person and I really like that I can immediately implement theory into practice. I prefer getting stuck in with work and gaining vocational qualifications whilst doing so rather than studying something for three years first. I can definitely see my future career with Barclays. I'm now even giving advice to my friends on how to stay motivated to get a good job, something I never would have imagined myself doing before.