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

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