Three years or longer, university can seem like a very long time for, sometimes, not much at all. The fees can skyrocket to over £30,000 and there’s no job guaranteed at the end of it. With sleepless nights and the pressure of deadlines, we can only hope it’s all worth it. But who knows?
There is certainly no shortage of students signing up for uni. A total of 532,300 young people entered UK higher education in 2015, an underlying increase of 3.1% (16,100) on the previous year and the highest number ever recorded, according to the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). But are they getting value for money, and would their career prospects be improved if they traveled along a different route such as apprenticeships?
Don’t get me wrong. On the whole, I enjoy being at university. But juggling uni with a part-time job, fitting in unpaid work experience relevant to my degree, and trying to maintain a healthy balance between work and social life, can be difficult to say the least.
Let me cut to the chase. Why aren’t more of us choosing a training route that combines hands-on work experience, actual wages, an education and a guaranteed job at the end? Oh, and did I forget to mention this? NO STUDENT DEBT!
If you haven’t realised already, I’m talking about apprenticeships, which as school leavers most of us never even considered. In the circumstances (my current circumstances include £60K debt), I really can’t see why not.
I asked Ashley Spooner (22) from Woolwich, now studying Creative Writing at Greenwich University, why she chose a degree over an apprenticeship. “To be honest,” she replied, “I didn’t think an apprenticeship was for me because I thought it was all mechanical or engineering courses. If I was given more infomration on them when at college and school I might have found one that suited me. If I had, I would have a lot less stress and worry about life after uni.”
After finishing, nearly all apprentices (90%) will remain in employment, with seven in ten (71%) staying with the same employer.
According to GOV.UK apprenticeships are available in 1500 job roles, covering more than 170 industries, from advertising to youth work and from environmental engineering to legal roles. There will also be a new scheme introduced in 2020 called the 2020 vision. It aims to widen further the range of apprenticeships available cross the UK, and to upgrade the benefits that come with them.
Nearly 90% of apprentices are satisfied with their scheme. One satisfied customer is Dario Wrona, a 22-year-old BMW apprentice from Swindon: “I always knew I didn’t want to go to uni because of the student debt and lack of security. The course I am doing now not only pays me but it also gives me the security of a job at the end!”
So with all the positives pointing forward towards apprenticeships, should universities be looking to broaden their structures to integrate apprentice schemes within Higher Education? And if they’re not, isn’t this what they should be doing?
In my opinion apprenticeships may well be the way forward and a good opportunity for my generation to shine, as opposed to waiting in the shadows of student debt for our big break.