Tag Archives: graduate

What has IBM done to me?? – Avtar Marway

Before joining IBM in September 2014, I had only knowledge that I gained from school and from the places that I had worked at. The experience that I had was in IT, but more in a hardware, or the design field. I worked as an IT Technical Support, and had a YouTube channel where my twin brother and I uploaded various videos that we edited. The YouTube channel is called “FranticViperz” if you want to check out some of our old stuff. FYI, some of our videos are deleted as my twin brother cringed at some of the content we made! Anyway, back to the topic… I had barely any experience in the corporate world and working as a consultant.

I’ve been in IBM for almost a year and a half now, and I want to reflect on what I’ve learnt so that you are able to understand what IBM has done to me, and what it can do to you if you work for IBM, whether it’s through an apprenticeship, graduate scheme or other.

I have worked in 3 different fields, with 3 different clients. I was in a Performance Test role at a large building society, then a Technical Support on TADDM role at one of the largest Scottish banks, and now a SAP Performance Analyst Role at a large utility firm. These are 3 different roles that I have been in since joining IBM. A testing role, a technical support role and now a SAP role. I have gained knowledge in these areas that I have worked in. For example, I am able to explain testing, and have knowledge of Performance Testing as well as other testing, such as UAT Testing and Functional Testing. The benefits of being in IBM, is that you are able to change your role if you feel that your role isn’t best suited for you, or if you would like to try something new. IBM has allowed me to experience these areas and gain more knowledge in this way.

IBM have provided me with training and learning which have helped to develop my skills. Although some training that I have completed is specific to Apprentices and assists with our development, there is other training that can be done online, at IBM locations, at client sites etc. For example, when I was a performance tester at a large building society, there were often training and learning sessions held after work, and during lunchtime. Often, I am sent emails about learning offers at IBM bases, and online learning that can help assist me, such as lunch and learn. Now what have these training and learning sessions done? These learning sessions have helped to develop my interpersonal skills, consulting skills, learn more about the client and their area of work.

IBM have spoiled me! It’s the perk of working for a consultancy company. You get sent out to client sites away from your home, and often away from your base location. I’ve worked in 3 different cities. Swindon, London and now Leeds. As these are away from my home, IBM accommodate me and make sure that I am comfortable when I am away from my base location. For those wondering, a base location is your closest IBM location, where you travel to and work without getting expense. IBM Warwick is my base location.

IBM spoiling me is not a bad thing at all. It’s a great thing because it shows how IBM are making sure that you are comfortable in the location that you are working. If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, and would rather commute, you can apply for a company car, providing you are eligible for the scheme that IBM offer. You can also apply for a company car if it is cost effective for IBM. So IBM haven’t really spoiled me, they’ve just made me comfortable in the location that I am working.

So overall, what are the major things that IBM have done to me? They’ve increased my confidence, presentation skills, time management and client interaction skills. They’ve allowed me to get experience in multiple areas, and have allowed me to work in various locations without incurring large expenses. They’ve allowed me to go on internal and external training courses and have provided me with learning that allows me to develop further. They’ve given me a great salary and a great benefits package. I’ve got a great manager who cares about my wellbeing, career and development. They’ve given me all of the support that I need and that’s what IBM have done to me.

IBM are a great company, and I’m glad that I work for this company. Hope you enjoyed reading my blog. If you have any questions regarding The IBM Apprenticeship, Gap Year (Futures) Scheme, Graduate scheme or anything else, feel free to comment asking, tweet me, or message me on LinkedIn.

Avtar Marway



Google-ing your future – Lewis Davies

Google the word “University” now click on Images…. Here’s what I found.



















Google the word “Apprenticeships”…..Again here’s what I found











My point is they’re both stereotypes and neither is a truly accurate representation of what they involve. In the long run both of these people (although one of them is animated) can achieve the same thing if they choose to. Although these are extreme examples the point remains that it’s your ambition and drive that will make you succeed.

As an apprentice it would be easy for me to sit here and exaggerate the benefits of apprenticeships and say that universities are a waste of time. They’re not…. However if you’re really unsure on what you want to do or where your end goal is, perhaps an apprenticeship is a better choice if nothing else just to avoid the fees.

I’d like to break down some real world Pro’s and Con’s for each with an extremely selfish context as at the end of the day what’s the point in doing either if they’re not going to benefit you and you alone and not just from the perspective of your career but life as a whole.

Apprenticeships Uni
Pro’s Con’s Pro’s Con’s
You’ll be getting paid.

Experience makes you attractive to employers, most apprentices are kept on or can easily find new jobs.

You’ll receive Industry recognised qualifications

You’ll miss fresher’s week unless you take it off work…But holiday is precious!

You won’t get the “Halls” experience (But then being hungover in a grimy flat somewhere every week doesn’t sound that much fun)

9-5 grind….You’ll get used to it trust me.

Improve your employability.

Learn more in your area of study.

Good social life.

There are a number of things you cannot do on an apprenticeship in. Become a doctor for example.

Extracurricular stuff like sports teams etc.

Debt! – I know you don’t start paying back until your earning enough but just knowing it’s there cannot be a great feeling… that and eating smart price beans every night.

Struggle to find employment after all the hard work.


I could go on for days but I think overriding all this is the real question “Do I REALLY want to do this?” as unless your passionate about what you do it’s a waste of time. I was not passionate about my uni choices which is why I started looking for alternatives. The fact you are reading this blog shows either you are perhaps not passionate but at least interested in what an apprenticeship can offer or at least not very interested in university! Ultimately my advice to any young student suffering the classic apprenticeship vs uni dilemma would be to educate yourself on both options as best you can and probably ignore my Pros and Cons above as they are likely biased haha!

Images sourced from:



University Equivalents… – Avtar Marway

Despite getting offers from all of the Universities that I applied to, I decided to take a different path and do an Apprenticeship. There were many positive reasons to go to University and I was ready to spend at least 3 years at one. Before I get onto the point of why I didn’t go to University, I just want to say that this blog is my opinion and my reasoning for choosing an Apprenticeship over University. Everyone else is entitled to their own opinions when comparing Apprenticeships with University.

I decided to enrol on the IBM Apprentice Scheme instead of going to University for a number of reasons. During my second year of A Levels, I spoke to my Dad and Uncle about the Universities I should apply to. They gave me their advice and also told me to keep my options open as there were University equivalents out there. I took their advice and started for looking for University equivalents. At this point in time, I wanted to go to University, and was happy going to the one closest to me, Aston University. This was my firm choice and Nottingham was my insurance choice. As my uncle works for IBM, I decided to look on their website for any school leaver schemes. To my luck, they had an Apprenticeship scheme and I decided to apply. I got through the application process, the aptitude test, the application review, and the assessment centre. I had my assessment centre on March 7th 2014 and was told a week later that I passed this stage. It then took over a month to find me a business unit, and for me to get confirmation of becoming an Apprentice at IBM. Until I got the confirmation from IBM that I was definitely going to be enrolled as an Apprentice in September, I was pretty sure that I was going to University.

In my honest opinion, I would still have gone to University, if I didn’t get the offer of employment with IBM. The IBM Apprenticeship scheme was the only Apprenticeship scheme that I applied to and the reasons that I took this offer was because:

  • IBM are one of, if not, the biggest consulting companies in the world
  • I knew it would be much more difficult to get a Job with IBM in the future
  • I knew that I would be able to progress a very good and sustainable career and future with IBM
  • I preferred the hands on learning style rather than the University learning style

Looking back at it now, I am glad that I made this choice of not going to Aston University or any other University to study Computer Science. I have had an amazing time so far at IBM and cannot wait to see what happens in the next few years. I do not regret joining IBM and doing an Apprenticeship. For me, it is a great alternative and it provides similar attributes to University such as improving confidence, learning new skills, working independently, as a team and so on. If any Apprentice feels that they could benefit with a degree, then they still have scope to study for one after their Apprenticeship scheme. So there it is, my honest opinion of why I didn’t go to University.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog.

If you have any other questions, would like to know more information about the Apprenticeship scheme or anything else, tweet me @AvtarMarway, message me on LinkedIn, or comment on this post!

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

University Vs. Apprenticeships – Oliver Pope-Mostowicz

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference

– The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

I’ve been asked before: Why? Why did I choose to do an Apprenticeship instead of getting a degree at University? Why would I turn away from that experience that everyone should have? Why would I decide to stop performing the magic trick of turning a perfectly good student loan into a disproportionate amount of fine Scottish beer and Subway sandwiches? … and all importantly why did I choose to not get a degree at University.

Partly because, as recently announced in national media (https://www.thetechpartnership.com/degreeapprenticeships), IBM and a number of other companies are offering their Apprentices the opportunity to do a workplace-based degree – for which I have submitted my application and I am awaiting a response one way or the other to my participation in the scheme. But doesn’t that invalidate the point of doing an Apprenticeship, I hear you cry?


Let me explain, both why I chose to do an Apprenticeship, and why I have still applied to do a Degree.

Both of my parents are academics. All of my life, I grew up with the quite simply unquestioned assumption that in order to get a good job that turned into a good career, I should do well at school, work hard at college and go to University, from where I would be able to get a good job – and that was the path to success. Now, I am by no means blaming my parents for this – it was much an assumption I had within myself, and they have been incredibly supportive of my participation in the Apprenticeship scheme (particularly after hearing about all the incredible things I have had the opportunity to do – seriously, if you haven’t already, have a look back at my previous blog posts for a tip of the iceberg!), and to be quite frank, I suspect that this is an assumption still inherent in many families and students. It’s not your fault, we’ve just grown up being raised by a generation that understood that University was just what you did.

However, we live in a different world now. 5 year old children are more adept at using a smart phone than many adults, utilising computing power at their fingertips without thinking, computing power moreover that would have filled an entire room in ‘the old days’. Facebook is championing the roll out of internet connectivity to third world countries, the last general election in which young voters have experienced a world without social media is about to take place, and the way we consume education and crucially, how we understand the way in which people learn, is facing a huge paradigm shift.

School to College to University to ‘a Good Job for Life’ is no longer the only model (and some may argue no longer a viable model – but that’s a can of worms for another day). I chose to do an Apprenticeship because I knew that staying at University would hinder me, rather than empower me. I had a gap year working full time at Starbucks, and during that time I understood the concepts of financial independence (to an extent – my parents helped me out A LOT, but I began to understand that what I spent had a direct relationship to how much time I had worked), self-education and personal development. Going to University felt like a step back, I wasn’t being pushed and moreover, I didn’t feel the motivation to push myself. I knew it wasn’t working, so I opted out of the system I expected to help me achieve the life I want to live and instead looked for alternatives. What I found was the opportunity to learn the same skills I would have at University (but perhaps more applicable/specialised to the career I want), to work with industry thought leaders and for an industry leader and crucially, to earn whilst I learn and to further my financial and personal independence. Having made the switch I would not go back – I wake up every day motivated to tear through the day, and I am currently working on projects where my contribution could change the way IBM does business with our clients in the UK&I!

I feel like I have learnt more, both technical skills and business skills that will propel my career regardless of where and what role I end up working in, in the two and a half years I have worked for IBM than my entire time at college and one year at University. Which leads me on to the Degree Apprenticeship. The reason I have applied for the scheme, and why I am going to do everything I can to get on to the scheme and get a great grade, and more importantly, why I feel that this does not invalidate the passion I feel for Apprenticeships is because of the way that I learn. I know that this degree (if I am successful in my application) will improve my education and my expertise, will make my CV more attractive to future employers (both within and external to IBM) and, if nothing else, will allow me to learn more about a subject that I deadly passionate about.

This conversation never was, and never should be, about whether a degree is a worthwhile qualification. It is, and I don’t think anyone could seriously and legitimately argue against that. It should also not be about Universities VERSUS Apprenticeships (I know I used that for the title, but that’s a hook – what are you going to do!). However, and this is the crucial point, it is not the only qualification – nor is it the best qualification. A Degree and University aren’t the only route to ‘a Good Job for Life’. The most important thing is that you, as a student, decide how you best learn and what route will empower you to make as much out of your life as you possibly can. If that means going to University, great – I wish you all the best in everything you do. But don’t let the naysayers (be that your friends, your parents, your career adviser at college) tell you that an Apprenticeship can’t set you up for life.

The possibilities really are endless, and in the end it’s two paths to the same destination. You make up your mind, and don’t be afraid of the road less travelled (after all, there’s more and more of us walking that path every day, proving that it can be done!).

Apprentices & Graduates, view from the Boss – guest post by Jenny Taylor, IBM UK Foundation Manager

I’m honoured to be asked to be the first writer in this series of the 2015 IBM Apprentice blog and also delighted, as I view the IBM Apprentice programme as UK Foundation’s greatest success. As someone who was in at the start of the conception of the programme early in 2010, I look at where we are now and can honestly say that the programme’s success has been beyond our wildest dreams – and that’s on many levels.

So, going back to the beginning – we had some challenges in initially setting up the programme and we had no idea what to expect. It was not without risk. 18 year old apprentices deployed on client facing projects – would they be up to it?

5 years later and the answer is a categoric – YES!! ……..and that’s not just a few high fliers, oh no, that would be the 200+ apprentices we have now hired.

It’s been an amazing journey during which we have seen both our Apprentice programme and our apprentices win many national awards and gain eminence right into No 10 Downing Street. This needs to be put into perspective in what had gone before. Yes, IBM and UK Foundation had already won many awards for our graduate schemes but never had we seen such high profile focus and never have we had so many invitations to celebrate and share the success of one of our Early Professionals’ programmes.

For me personally, this has also brought amazing opportunities. I’ve been invited to the House of Commons, the House of Lords, No 10 Downing Street, City Hall and to numerous speaking engagements – all because of our Apprenticeship scheme. The demands are continuous and I’m delighted that they keep on coming. IBM is a leader in the government’s apprenticeship Trailblazer initiative and we are proud that even though our programme is so relatively recent in its inception, we are clearly seen as best of breed nationally.

Inevitably, we are asked how our apprentices compare with our graduates. Well, I’d prefer not to make a direct comparison. What I can say about our apprentices though, is that they clearly excel in areas where we also benchmark our graduates. So, our apprentices are in very high demand for deployment on client facing projects, they achieve distinctions on UK Foundation professional development courses which were traditionally run for graduates, and they are super stars when it comes to representing IBM externally. They have far exceeded any expectations we had when we started the programme.

So, what would I say to someone trying to choose between an Apprenticeship and University? I’d say, choose your Apprenticeship programme carefully and then GO FOR IT! No financial debt, a chance to get ahead in the workplace from an early age, and no barrier to your future career prospects. All our apprentices who started in 2010 and 2011 have moved into the business and gained promotion to the first IBM professional level. Our 2012 hires will follow them this year. That puts them all on equal footing with ex-graduates and other experienced professionals. From now on, all have equal opportunities to go wherever they wish to direct their future careers.