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.


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