Opinion

Apprenticeships provide great foundations for a successful career

Benjamin Cunningham, trainee architectural technologist at AECOM.

Many students are led to believe that going to university is the only way to secure a professional job. AECOM trainee Benjamin Cunningham begs to differ.

Many students often face a number of barriers whilst completing their A Levels so the idea of having to make long term career plans can be frightening. Typically, throughout this period, students are constantly pushed to prepare for university and complete numerous applications. 

However, there are very few who are encouraged to pursue apprenticeships. As a result of this, many students are led to believe that going to university is the only way to secure a professional job. 

Although there has been an increase in people applying for apprenticeships, for many years, they have not been classified as a proper qualification. A qualification requires someone to have the necessary skills, education and experience to do a specified job - all of which an apprenticeship provides. But why do most people only associate this with degrees? 

It’s perhaps fair to say that in recent years apprenticeships haven’t been given the respect they deserve, probably in part due to the lack of knowledge surrounding what the qualification can entail and the benefits they can offer. 

As the only person in my year to take pursue this path, it came as surprise to many - particularly my teachers. It’s fair to say that a good proportion of them generally went to university and therefore encourage their students to do the same. Having studied at a school where going to sixth form was practically essential, it was automatically assumed that students would apply to further their studies and eventually go to university.

With a clear lack of understanding and information available in schools, a lot of people are unaware of the different options that are available to them. Some apprenticeships combine both A Level and degree level courses which enable people to complete the same degree as someone who goes to university. Although the time scale for these apprenticeships is usually longer to complete, it is counter balanced by the experience gained within the industry.

It is also often believed that going to university will immediately make individuals more employable and enable them to secure a job quicker. Whilst there is no guarantee with degrees, with majority of apprenticeships, there is. Students are encouraged to learn on the go as well as receive a monthly salary. Some employers even pay for additional educational courses.

Having said this, there is also a responsibility on businesses to improve the quality of careers advice in schools by working in partnership with various industries. This will ensure every student is fully aware of the wide variety of careers available to them whilst ensuring there is also a focus on A-level subject choices.

In November last year, AECOM combined its apprentice and graduate development programmes, allowing students to follow early development programmes. Apprenticeships are valued equally with full-time education as a route to achieving a bachelor’s degree and a charted status. 

To attract and retain the best talent, it is important businesses offer apprentices much more than competence training and provide them with the opportunity to develop wider business skills. 

Benjamin Cunningham is a trainee architectural technologist at AECOM.