Monthly Archives: May 2015

Apprenticeships vs University – The Choice is yours

It’s a Trap! No it’s me Tom. C, back with another blog post.

Now I would start with the usual rambling about my current situation with the courses, projects and random assortments of bad puns but I have been asked to write a post about the University verses Apprenticeships debate. Well Hmph! I was going to retell the story of how I saved the entire project from a pack of angry wolves using nothing but a creme egg and a paper clip, another time I guess.

Well it’s certainty a timely topic, according to a study at ‘Just Googled it INC’ apprenticeships are on the rise with “440,400 apprenticeship starts in 2013/14”  and while “the media” will have you believe that apprenticeships descended from the clouds to bring peace and harmony to the job market, University is still a completely valid decision for further education. IBM is in an interesting position when it comes to this debate because simply in the long run is doesn’t really matter. IBM hires both Apprentices and Graduates and under each scheme you’re given equal opportunities. On both you’ll receive training and more often than not Apprentices and Graduates end up working on the same projects. Whether that be helping a client build their business, developing the next app or recovering a project from a complete system failure after someone dropped a strawberry bonbon into a P-series (that will also have to be for another time).

So to help defuse this debate let’s take the common ground between each offering and compare them factoring in my own personal experience gained from the apprenticeship.


Well first we have education – the tasty jam filling to the Further Education sandwich (should really not write theses so close to dinner).

Education is important there’s no doubt about that. In University you have your syllabus (my teacher always called it a “silly-bus” as it’s a weird ride through life): the best thing about the syllabus is its set, it’s a consistent. You know exactly what you’re going to learn about, if you turn up to a job interview and say “Hi, I’ve got a Masters in Computer Science” everyone will have a good idea about your knowledge set.

In an apprenticeship it’s a much broader playing field. If you take the “Technical Solutions Specialist” apprenticeship IBM offers. You’ve got me working as a Security SME, Infrastructure Architect and a Linux Sys Admin. You also have a good friend of mine Yasmin Stageman (you should totally check out her blog) who works as a Java Programmer and has recently taken up a role a Technical Project Manager. Two completely different job roles under one title. Also in an Apprenticeship the amount you learn and develop is completely on you. You decide what courses you would like to attend and how much you pick up on project.

Finally there’s qualifications. As stated in my previous blog I wanted to gain more certifications and I can happily say I have completed my CompTIA Security+ Exam! (Yay) which is by far one of the best parts of the Apprenticeship. In University you end up with one big qualification: the course you applied for. In an Apprenticeship you can come away with one, or multiple, industry-recognized qualifications.


At the end of the day you still have to work on an Apprenticeship and you still have to go to Lectures at University (though of course the latter does not involve what is traditionally referred to as work). Work is not all that bad: you’re still doing something you love but instead of doing it for yourself you’re doing it for the client.  There isn’t much to say on the topic – if you’re in a role you enjoy then the 9-5 won’t even matter.


Another point in the Apprenticeship vs University debate is the fact that you’re constantly learning on an apprenticeship – and I have found this to be very true. At the current moment I have a Senior Architect sitting behind me, our Senior Database Administrator to my left, two AIX/Linux System Admin to my right and a Customer Relationships Manager in front of me. The years of experience on offer is truly amazing and I get to work with these people every day learning from them to help develop my skills and learn from my mistakes. Learning from experience also helps you to diagnose issues very quickly which others may have taken hours to fix. Mainly because the manual will say one thing but in most cases you have to do something else.

Social Life

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to Uni Social life, I can’t talk form personal opinion but all I hear is that it’s the best, it’s amazing and is something that you have to be there to believe. As for the Apprenticeship we still have a great social life. We all get together, go bowling, go-carting and play FootGolf. Not to mention the pub. lots and lots of Pubs! As for IBM itself, there’s internal Hack-a-thons, the Corporate Games (which is like an internal Olympics) which is always a great hit. Projects (like the one I’m on) also celebrate Christmas and Project Releases which is always great fun.


I’m sure I don’t have to go on about the “£50,000” worth of debt everyone keeps talking about but it’s not really ‘debt’ – you are investing in an education for later life and in my mind if you want to go for it, GO FOR IT. On the apprentice side, you get paid X amount of money alongside that you get IBM discounts/cash back on various products, private health care and bonus depending on your “PBC” Rating. There is also “TAP” which, if you are entitled to, is an allowance for accommodation or travel money to allow you to work way from home which is great.

Well there you have it: my 5 points on the Uni vs Apprenticeships argument. In my opinion they’re are both perfectly good opportunities. I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my Apprenticeship experience so far and would completely recommend it to anyone. I’ve learnt a ton, met some amazing people and have had a great kick start to me career. As for Uni it’s up to you. It’s your decision and I hope which ever one you make you are happy with the choice.

That was me Tom. C See you next time!


The best option for YOU – Josh White

For my generation University has always been the main path to choose when leaving school/college. Is it the right path through? Is that the only option? The simple answer is no.

When I was at school doing my GCSEs and A Levels the expectation was that my classmates and I would go to university to continue with further study. I think the main reason for this based on my experience of speaking to teachers during my time on the IBM Apprenticeship is that there was/is simply a lack of knowledge of the other options that are out there. I have done numerous talks to school pupils/parents/teachers about the options IBM has to offer as an alternative to going to University and I have had very positive reactions mainly because the audience I was speaking to was not aware of the different career paths.

Do what is best for you and what you want to achieve. No route is right or wrong as long as what you choose to do ticks the right boxes and helps you achieve what you need to in order to reach your goals.

There are different reasons why people choose one route or another whether it is to go to University to live away from home or dive straight into the world of work and earn money. For me, being on the IBM Apprenticeship, I have the best of both worlds. I have lived away from hope on my first project and I will most likely live away from home again. I am earning a regular salary and I am gaining vast work experience and knowledge as well as my Apprenticeship qualifications.

If you are at that point in time when you are deciding on what is best for you and what you want to do when you leave school/college and you are thinking about choosing the ‘best of a bad bunch’ of options. Don’t. Take your time and research what options are out there. Many of the IBM Gap Year Students have decided to join the IBM Gap Year scheme because they are not sure whether they want to go to University or go straight into the working world. You don’t need to rush a decision but you do need to be proactive about making one.

I did not choose an Apprenticeship over going to University. In truthfulness I did not research my options fully and jumped into the world of work hoping I would figure out what I wanted to do. That is why I am telling you to spend some time and look at the options in more detail. I’m sure I would be a lot further to where I wanted to be if I had done that in the first place. Yes I worked in different industries and gained experience but it wasn’t all what I wanted to do.

Like I said earlier, there is no right or wrong path to choose, just choose the one that is best for you.

Happy reading, Josh.

Third time lucky – Joe Barry

Hello again, Its Joe, you remember? The 19 year old that has been on 3 apprenticeships schemes. This is now my second blog in which I will be talking about Apprenticeships & University. I know what you’re thinking, I may be a bit bias towards Apprenticeships given that I’ve been on so many of them, but the truth is there is no right or wrong answer. I believe the decision between Apprenticeship or University is completely depends on the type of learner you are.

In my opinion, University favours, but is not limited to, the more academic learner. Unlike apprenticeships you are in a learning environment where lecturers are there to help and the other students are in the same boat as you (this is not always the case with apprenticeships). More skilled professions, such as a doctor or lawyer have always been associated with University which is one of its biggest selling points. The ‘Uni’ lifestyle is a big part of the decision and I’m sure people that attend Uni would agree.

Apprenticeship schemes are becoming more available for higher skilled jobs as more companies are recognising the benefits of apprentices. Schemes can be used to gage if you like the job you are studying for. After leaving secondary school I joined an electrical apprenticeship through Chichester College, The main reason I joined was because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time and my family believed being an electrician would be a ‘safe’ option from me. After 7 months of explosions and getting zapped I realised (Firstly, that this was NOT a very ‘safe’ option for me) but also that I was terrible electrician and left the scheme. If I went for full time education I would have studied for 3 years and at the end I would have just been a qualified terrible electrician.

Apprenticeships offer a hands on experience in a professional workplace. They allow you to earn while you learn which is a big selling point for apprenticeships, especially when you consider the debts people get into in full time education. This is why practical learners tend to benefit most from apprenticeships. They can also provide an early start for people that know what company and/or profession they want to work for. Instead of providing a head start university can leave people in debt before they have started their career.

Some Apprenticeship have been criticised for take advantage of cheap labour. I know all too well what it feels like to be in this position. Picture this; Joe’s second Apprenticeship, working for a computer repair company in Southampton, For the apprenticeship I spent the first couple of months alternating between college and work. I was on a weekly wage of £100 which I was fine with when I was going to college however when I was no longer going to college and spent every week at work I was travelling to Southampton Monday to Friday out of my own pocket. That nice £100 a week turned into £50 a week (including weekend work) and my lovely smile turned all sour.

What I am trying to say is that Apprenticeships are new and are now starting to get government funding and good schemes are emerging everyday but please take care when choosing a scheme or employer, Make sure you know your rights and know that apprentices can be just as good as graduates.

After my 12months was up in Southampton I was let go and replaced by another apprentice. My Apprenticeships allowed me to get the qualifications I need and the clarity of what career I want to peruse and because of that I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

Overall I have made the decision to be an apprentice based on the fact that I wanted to earn and learn in one place /scheme and also because I realised I am a very hands on learner. Reading textbooks in class for me was useless and never got me anywhere.

If you’re reading this and you also learn best from hands on experience I would strongly suggest that you look into an Apprenticeship. If you learn differently that’s fine, University does work well for people but take the time to find out what style of learning works best for you.

What to do? – Hollie Sauvage

Hi All, hope everyone had a great Easter! My blog post this time is about my decision to choose an Apprenticeship over going to University.

After completing my A-Levels I didn’t know what I wanted to do, except University was definitely not the path I wanted to go down. I really wanted to continue my education without having to go to University. I was willing to do the studying but was just not ready for the move out of home, and give up my part time job!

To be able to continue to work part time, I was applied to do my degree at my local college, where I could study two days a week and work for the rest of the week. This allowed me to stay working and studying at the same time – the best of both worlds!

After two years of doing this, I found that actually I wanted to work full time and stop studying. It was a point in my college years where I could finish college and still get some sort of qualification – a Foundation Degree. I had a friend from school who had started on the IBM Apprenticeship after finishing A Levels and he was really pushing me to join IBM, as it would be a great opportunity allowing me to work full time and continue some level of education, getting more qualifications more tailored to my career goals!

My main concern was that it would be a step back from where I was in my job and also my studies, but that was really not the case! After careful consideration I chose to leave my job and join the IBM Apprentice scheme as I realised that I had reached the boundaries of how far I could progress.

The decision to move from my degree to the IBM Apprenticeship certainly was the best option for me. It has allowed me to tailor my education to my career, rather than learning certain degree modules that I might never need to use again, as well as boosting my experience in a way that my previous job would not have done. I’d definitely recommend at least considering an Apprenticeship– and like me you can become an Apprentice even if you have started University and realised it wasn’t the option for you!

Exploring Unknown Paths – Craig Wilkinson

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer and I finally got round to fixing my bike a few weeks ago. What does that mean? Long cycles along the scenic shoreline while soaking up the sun’s rays and getting my legs out for some good exercise!

A cycle along the shoreline is great and all but the cycle paths are usually straight roads and don’t offer that much of a challenge to cycle on, plus there’s usually a lot of other people out on their bikes enjoying the weather who could get in the way of that perfect stretch where you can usually smash it. That’s where there is nothing better than discovering new places, going down unknown paths and tackling some tricky terrain – usually places that the average person would rather avoid as they don’t know what could await them.

I hope you’ve realised by now that this story is an attempt at a metaphor. A metaphor for traditional education vs Apprenticeships.

What do I mean by ‘traditional education’?

Traditional education is, for me, the path of University. The average eighteen year-old finishing their A Levels or BTECs at college are probably aiming to get a certain number of UCAS points to get into their preferred University. Then, when starting University, they are usually studying in a place far from home and spending most of their first year socialising and getting to know the scene in the town/city where they study. Then their next couple of years in Uni are spent knuckling down to finish a dissertation and graduate university.

While this is still the favoured option for many school leavers in the UK, there is no guarantee of a job and, if a well-paid job is found, there are outstanding student loans on average of £40,000 which the student will have to spend a good deal of their working life paying off. (According to the BBC, students could be paying student loans well into their 40s and 50s).

Also, don’t forget the competition graduates currently face when applying for Graduate jobs. Even with the number of Graduate vacancies returning to pre-recession levels, the Telegraph reported in July 2014 that employers receive on average 39 applicants for every Graduate vacancy. That’s a lot of competition.
On top of that, the Independent also reported in 2014 that only half of Graduates get jobs in their chosen field of study! That’s a lot of students not achieving their career goals after studying for years and accumulating a significant amount of debt that they will be paying off in their 50s for a job they don’t want or like!

Figures and facts such as these are what concerned me when it came to making my own decision. If I hadn’t heard about the IBM Apprenticeship, I would likely be at University right now being part of the above statistics. You have to ask, would it have been worth it?

Although a metaphor, my story above is true; I like taking challenges and often take the ‘off-road’. I attribute this to going on an Apprenticeship. As a person, I like to take a risk, get stuck in and overcome challenges, I also like to be different and set myself apart from the norm (I also don’t like other people getting in the way when I am cycling). That’s where the allure of an Apprenticeship piqued my interest.

Apprenticeships offer an alternative to University where you get stuck in to real jobs (no tea making or keyboard scrubbing) with real employers, earning a real salary and earning a real qualification that is industry-recognised. Not only does this instantly introduce you to the work place and professional environment, it allows you to quickly get used to having responsibility. All of this is achievable without a penny of debt to your name. You are also constantly pushed and challenged by people who have your best interests at heart and, if you do well, you can be noticed by senior management in various parts of the company which can aid your career development.

There is also the opportunity, being part of a big company, to be funded to do further education courses in things that interest you or provide you with an essential skill.

To me, it made perfect sense to choose an Apprenticeship over University, but if anything swayed my thoughts it would be working for a top employer and not paying off £40,000 worth of debt in my 50s.
I am proud of taking the Apprenticeship route and not being the 40th person applying for one Graduate role.

Hopefully you won’t be the 40th person either. #GetInGoFar

– Craig Wilkinson