Francesca, had you always been planning to take up apprenticeship when you left school?
No - I didn't know much about apprenticeships. My sixth form college was very ‘university oriented’.
Why did you end up choosing an apprenticeship over university?
I’m not against university. I do feel this route is best for some career paths, and possibly a better choice for certain people for other reasons. But I was interested in a business related career and felt that the apprenticeship route could give me an edge over my university-bound peers. I didn’t see how ‘spending three years in a classroom’ would put me ahead of the game when it came to finding a job. At the end of the day, all of these students would be leaving university at the same time, with the same qualification, often with no work placement experience at all.
You're now a few years down the line. Did things work out the way you'd planned?
Yes, my HR apprenticeship experience at IBM completely lived up to my expectations. My apprenticeship scheme happened to guarantee a job at the end of it, which of course was a big positive. I now have a sense of job security, and truck loads of vocational experience on top of my studies in the area.
From day one I focused on pushing my career forward and developing my skills. So you can see why I wouldn’t currently feel at any disadvantage to a graduate of my age and stage who may be aiming to enter my field now.
I also have the added advantage of being in a strong financial position with the ability to buy a property and a car - unlike my peers who are now leaving university.
Would you encourage school leavers to look into apprenticeships?
Yes, it feels as though apprenticeship opportunities for school leavers are on their way to being better than ever before, and it’s great to hear that the Institute is currently focusing on improving the quality of apprenticeships.
I really hope that schools and sixth form colleges keep abreast of these developments and that they all get fully behind the idea of promoting this route, alongside the others, to their students. Employers and schools need to keep building relationships with each other and sharing information with pupils. If they don’t, a whole load of young people could end up missing out on opportunities like the one I had, and employers could end up missing out on talent.
Apprenticeships are now better than ever before and you can now also do degree apprenticeships too, which gives you the best of both worlds.