Making the choice – Ryan McManus

I’m not going to argue about what is good and bad about apprenticeships as you can find loads of articles about that. In this post I’m going to mention the things that I considered/ did when trying to make that somewhat daunting and scary decision between University and Higher Apprenticeships. I will share my views and some of my friend’s views on their rationale to making the big decision. Although I’m in an apprenticeship I’m going to tell you tips that will help you make the best decision for whatever career path you choose to take.

I found that you are pressured into making that big decision while still in sixth form/college. Schools are supposed to support you helping you make that decision. So if you’re still at college or sixth form start off by having discussions with your teachers about your initial ideas as they can probably give you some pretty good advice to give you that first stepping stone. They will also help you look for what you are after if you know what you want and point you in the right direction.

Secondly, think about what your ambition is (doesn’t matter if you don’t have one…yet). You might have always wanted to be a paramedic from the days you sat down watching Casualty eating your dinner or always wanted to follow your parent’s trade. If so what is the best path to achieve that? If you know what you want to do then you were one step ahead of me at that time!

If you don’t have a clue what you want to do, start looking at general university/apprenticeships courses and trending jobs. This will give you a feel for what jobs are actually out there and in reach. There are opportunities out there that you will not have heard of, so do some research and note down the ones you like the sound of and look into them in more detail.

Speak to your friends as they might have already made the choice and be doing something that interests you too. Also speak to your parents as they might have some useful advice e.g. how to get a job in their company, any schemes etc.

Go on the internet and search for career fairs. These offer a variety of opportunities (College, University, Apprenticeships). These fairs give you the chance to get advice from people who really know their stuff.

If you are in a part time job and you like the company you are working for, why not ask if they offer any apprenticeship opportunities to learn more and give you an insight into their trade.

What subjects have you taken? Think about what subjects you have taken at school and the skills you have acquired and see if there are any Apprenticeships/ Uni courses that build on these qualities. If you have taken relevant courses it may help with the application process.

Consider your UCAS points –If you don’t have the points for the subject you want to do then this could influence where you go, what you do and the career path you choose. But if you really want to do something but don’t have the points then it’s not the end of the world, you can do night classes or re take a year etc. Don’t let a number put you off!

If an apprenticeship offers exactly the same as Uni then why pay more? Some apprenticeships do offer foundation degrees. Look at the cheapest option.

Do you have the money to pay out? Have your parents saved for you? Do you want to be in debt? Weigh up an Apprenticeship where you get paid to learn with a University where you pay them to learn.

Do you actually know what you want to do? If you know what you want to do and Uni is the best/ only path, then take a look at university but personally I do not see the point in going to university if you don’t understand what job you are aiming for at the end of it. Plan your career out and don’t just use it as another 3 years to delay your career decision. (I nearly made that mistake)

The way I found my career path is by simply just typing “apprenticeships in the uk” in google. Use filters in the search by adding in the county/city/ industry you’re interested in.

Location is something you may want to consider when applying/looking for a course. Some apprenticeships/Universities specialise in certain things in certain areas, so limiting yourself to a city may be the reason it’s not offering what you want.

We have all heard about the Uni life drinking to the early hours of the morning and the cheap Thursday night drinks. Well it’s not actually true…. It could be the most expensive party you ever go to with all the University tuition fees. Yes it’s a bonus of Uni but I would advise to not let this be an influencing factor in your decision.

Some people follow their friends or girlfriends/boyfriend to make a decision. Bear in mind that it’s your career and you can always make new friends. Don’t direct your career based on an easy choice!

You have time, but not that much time. – Don’t rush into a decision but equally don’t take years sitting at home eating cornflakes searching for endless opportunities that you won’t follow up. Select the options you want to do and be fully committed to the application.

The right company but not the right apprenticeship? If you know what a company has to offer and like the industry they are in, don’t be put off by going into an apprenticeship that is not exactly the position/role you want. Think of it as a platform and a first step to achieving what you want.

Other tips:

Sign up to colleges or sites. There are lots of colleges/companies that will actively search for opportunities that suit you. All you have to do is type your details in and they will contact you if anything crops up.

Integrated colleges – A lot of colleges now take you on as an apprentice as they are linked up with an employer. So just because you might have to do another college course, it does not mean that you’re not going to be in an apprenticeship.

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