by Tilly Cutler, winner of Apprenticeship Ambassador of the Year Award, sponsored by Superior Seals at the Dorset Business Awards 2018
If you had told me in the summer of 2016 that in two years’ time I would be working for one of the largest investment banks in the world, I wouldn’t have believed you. Why is that? I was dead set on going to university because, unfortunately, it was the only opportunity my school informed me about.
My personal statement had been written and all UCAS applications submitted – I was ready to go! However, I was still a little unsure if I had really considered all my options for further education. I still wanted to learn, but liked the thought of getting into a field of work that interested me. When I started looking into the apprenticeship route there were a variety of options suddenly available that university didn’t offer.
I embarked on a mission to explore beyond the information provided by my sixth form and to gain a greater understanding of the unknown concept of an apprenticeship. The two words that caught my eye were earn & learn – I wouldn’t be working in the local supermarket at weekends and spending 9 hours a day in a lecture hall; I would be experiencing a full-time role and studying for an industry-recognised qualification while still being able to enjoy my free time.
During my research I came to realise that, for me, university simply couldn’t match the opportunities that were available through an apprenticeship. I now work in a fascinating business, communicating with individuals across the globe on a daily basis. At J.P. Morgan I’m considered a valued employee, with no less importance than someone with a lot more experience.
Choosing to pursue an apprenticeship over university also means that I have no student debt – I am paid a competitive annual salary as an apprentice, which will only increase going forward as I progress through the company. The apprenticeship programme guarantees us a role in the bank after we have successfully completed the 18 month training period, subject to performance. There are also apprenticeship providers, including J.P. Morgan, that now offer employees the opportunity to work towards a degree qualification at the same time as learning on the job – some may say this is the best of both worlds!
Being an apprentice has allowed me to grow as an individual and picture where I want my career to be in 10 years’ time. I feel lucky to not only gain qualifications while working, but also develop transferable skills that I may not have had exposure to at university.
There is still an out-of-date stigma surrounding apprenticeships, however, in 2019 there are so many opportunities that apprenticeships allow young people to get into interesting and diverse businesses and fields.
My top tip: get informed, then get ahead! I am in an incredibly strong position that I may not have grown into if I had gone to university.