Going to university is often seen as the only path to career success but with the prospect of a five-figure debt and no guaranteed job at the end of it, Julia Cox has chosen an alternative route to a future in construction.
“I recently finished further education, leaving college with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business. While studying I earnestly contemplated the important decisions facing all FE students – whether to continue my studies at university or enter the world of work.
The majority of my friends and peers have opted for university and I can see the appeal. The prospect of acquiring so much knowledge in a specific field is compelling. But being confined by the structure of study for so many more years and the cost of this felt unpalatable.
The value of a degree also varies hugely dependent upon what you study and where. Clearly, graduates from the likes of Oxford and Cambridge face a fairly comfortable financial future and students of STEM subjects can command much higher-than-average starting salaries.
Degrees are also essential for certain fields such as medicine and law and a pertinent option for people more academically-focussed – they just aren’t the only means to unlocking a career.
However, the prospect of entering full time employment at the age of 18 did feel premature. I was already working part time in a retail environment and was quickly promoted to supervisor upon leaving college but I knew I didn’t want to do this full time. I still feel like I have so much more to learn in order to fulfil my career aspirations.
That’s why it was refreshing to see companies like Wates developing ways to encourage people to look beyond the lecture room to alternative routes to employment. When I discovered their apprenticeship positions, I knew immediately that was what I wanted to do.
For me, the main benefit of an apprenticeship is that they allow people to combine working with studying to help gather knowledge AND experience in a specific field at the same time. Although as apprentices we’re paid a little less than graduates when we start, when we reach the same age, we are paid the same. On top of this we have extra years of hands on experience and no student debt. So for me, it’s a no brainer.