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From Textbooks to Prospects

Unfortunately, at my school, students were only really told about two post high-school options – University or a “hands on” apprenticeship. I feel like this is always the case – based on conversations I have had with friends. Whilst in school, the apprenticeships offered to students were limited to either electrician, engineering or plumbing; whilst these are great jobs, they simply weren’t what I wanted to do in the long run. And because I wasn’t told that, in fact, there are a plethora of different apprenticeships out there – I felt pressured into applying for University.

If Uni was free, I’d do it. Everyone always says how great their time was there and I guess it can be seen as the last years of freedom before the world of work. But, to be honest, I just wasn’t as drawn to it like my friends. I was desperate to start working, to make money rather than get in debt; and most importantly, to get my foot in the door of digital marketing.

But, once again, I was shown no alternative than going through University to do this; so I wrote my personal statement and sent my UCAS form off to Birmingham, Sheffield, Northumbria, Cardiff and DeMont Ford. However, it was after I spent £25 on my application that I found out about The Juice Academy.

My good friend Amy Sadler is really the person I need to thank for this; when she found out that I wasn’t 100% on Uni, she immediately talked to her boss and helped show me that I can get to where I want through hard work and experience, not only University. She researched and sent me links to various different companies in Manchester, and found different courses I could take in communications and marketing whilst having a job, so I was qualified to later take on a role in that area of work. One of the many companies Amy introduced me too was Tangerine PR. They are a huge communications company based in Manchester and they are also the founders of The Juice Academy.

So after going on their website, I noticed a link to said “Juice Academy” – and saw an application for a social media apprenticeship. It’s safe to say that I was shocked you could do a year long course in social media, but it was this that spurred me on to do more research into apprenticeships as a whole. I found that there are loads of different apprenticeships available in plenty of different sectors – not just engineering and plumbing. Obviously there are some professions that University is vital in the process of getting the job, but the majority of the time experience is key.

Anyway, back to The Academy. So after seeing the application I grabbed my GCSE results and my mum (national insurance number? No idea) and applied straight way. This was early on in 2015 – before I had sat my A-Level exams or heard back from any of my universities – but I knew that it was exactly what I wanted and needed. Fast forward to July, and I found myself at Tangerine headquarters taking part in their Bootcamp day. It was here that I meant 41 other hopeful applicants and 22 companies looking for an apprentice. This day was probably one of my most memorable; I’m actually quite a shy person so the idea of having to spend a whole day with complete strangers was simply terrifying. However, I knew I needed to overcome that in order to work in this type of job, and I like to think I am more confident when it comes to talking and socialising with others now!

By the end of the day, all applicants were sat in a room and then called upstairs one by one, where they were then either taken into one room and got told that they were successful, or were taken into a different room where they were told they hadn’t been placed. I think I was the sixth person to be called up and to put it simply – I was terrified. I was lead into a room where there were two men – both with stern facial expressions – sitting and waiting for me. I felt like I was on the apprentice. To cut a long story short, I was incredibly lucky to land an apprenticeship at Better Placed Recruitment and I was so thankful!

It was while working here that I also found out Birmingham City University had accepted my place to study Media and Communications Public Relations, and it was also here that I rang up and said ‘no thanks’.

I personally consider it a brave decision that I went with The Juice Academy rather than going to University. But I definitely think that more people need to be told about the multitude of apprenticeships that are out there; since getting my place at Better Placed, I have had so many people reach out to me about the process and if I knew of any apprenticeships appropriate for them. They allow you to not only gain experience in your chosen area (which is vital to getting a job, one thing I have learnt from being around recruiters is that experience is gold) but you also get qualified and it forces you to become an adult. You aren’t in University and out on the lash every night, you are in work trying your hardest to learn and progress, you are handling your own money and having to learn how to budget.

It isn’t an easy way to do things, I have to get up at six every morning to commute to Manchester and then don’t get home before seven, but I have learnt that my ‘week time’ is work time, and at the weekends I can chill or go out. I think apprenticeships offer so much more than people make out, they are respected amongst employers and I really hope that schools start to inform their pupils of them much more so people aren’t left in a position where they feel pressured into applying to Uni. At the end of the day, who wants to get in over £27,000 worth of debt when they could’ve just done an apprenticeship?

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