Every year young people face the difficult debate of which route to go down to give themselves the best possible opportunities for their futures and while university seems to be the default, or even the only conceivable choice for students after completing their A levels, the option of doing an apprenticeship should not be ruled out as easily as it is.
So what are some of the pros and cons of the traditional route vs something different? Here we make it simple for you to decide:
University has always been the traditional option for students with colleges and sixth forms focusing heavily on this pathway of study and there is nothing wrong with this. There are many advantages of choosing to continue your studies at university.
Unsure on what you want to do after graduating?
University can help keep your options open if you don’t yet have a particular career in mind, and it will allow you to gain skills that are transferable into any job role that you may be leaning towards by the end of your studies.
Individual and academic study or hands on experience?
Both! University is heavily focused on individual and academic study, however if you’re also keen to gain some experience of the world of work, many courses do provide the opportunity for their students to carry out a placement year. This will also set you up with valuable contacts for future work experience or jobs after graduating.
Like the idea of living on your own?
University will give you a sense of what it’s like to be independent, however you will be experiencing this with other students so you’re not completely on your own! This will also provide you with social skills which will be valuable when you are looking for work.
However, there are factors to think about when deciding if university is really for you…
- It is expensive! Tuition fees in England are amongst the highest in the world, and that’s before you consider the large cost of living a student lifestyle meaning you can end up in your overdraft far sooner than you think.
- A degree doesn’t guarantee a job! Although it will give you a competitive edge over non degree holders, it does not mean that you will be guaranteed employment after university. There is still competition from other recent graduates and everyone in between, for the exact same jobs.
- Debt! Even though taking out a student loan will help you pay tuition fees and normally you won’t have to start making repayments until you’re earning over a certain amount, you will end up spending the next 30 years trying to settle your debt.
If that’s enough to put you off, maybe it’s time to consider the overlooked option of going down the apprenticeship route. Apprenticeships can provide you with a direct career path which is great if you know what you want to do in the future, and getting into employment earlier means there’s lots of potential for you to progress in to a career quickly.
Modern apprenticeships were introduced by the government in collaboration with UK employers – each scheme is designed specifically to prepare a young person for a certain job role or to work in a particular sector, however for years there have been many misconceptions about doing an apprenticeship. Many young people rule them out entirely without hesitation because they believe that they are simply not as good as obtaining an undergraduate degree. Now it’s time to bust those myths!
‘People who do apprenticeships will not be as successful as university students’
Apprenticeships are simply an alternative route into skilled employment. They are a way for you as a student to earn whilst you learn and gain vital work experience to set you up for a future career.
‘Employers do not value apprenticeships’
Employers are just as open to the apprenticeship route as they are to university graduates due to the hands-on experience you will receive as an apprentice.
‘Apprenticeships are only available in manual industries’
Whilst this might have once been the case, apprenticeships are now available in many different industries ranging from law and banking to fashion.
‘Apprentices do not earn much’
Apprentices must earn at least the national minimum wage, and on top of this any tuition costs are covered by the company that employs you, so you will earn a living whilst on the job and from an earlier age.
However, before you go signing up for an apprenticeship you should consider these factors…
- You cannot access all career pathways – While apprenticeships do open many doors, some career choices such as medicine and science still require degrees.
- You may miss the university experience. For some students, the choice of attending university isn’t even based on career prospects, but instead on the idea of flat parties and group trips to the pub! Undertaking a degree also often incorporates a social boost and the chance to make new friends, join new clubs and have new experiences.
- All work and no play? While university obviously requires hard work and dedication, many view the time spent on your degree as more of an introduction to the shallow end of the career pool, with more flexibility and the cushy reliability of a student loan to fall back on. Apprenticeships meanwhile mean you often undertake full responsibility straight away, your boss and colleagues will expect certain attitudes and if you’re not prepared for this it may not be the best option.
If you are still unsure about which pathway you want to go down, check out all the jobs that connections has to offer to see what careers may be of interest to you.
By Abbie Barber