Neil Bates

While university applications have increased by four per cent in 2021, job applications for degree and higher-level apprenticeships have risen by a quarter*.

Neil Bates, Managing Director at apprenticeship and skills specialist Seetec Outsource, is not surprised, explaining that young people are realising there are alternative routes for building a successful career.

“The growth in higher apprenticeships means there are more opportunities than ever to start earning straight away while developing your learning and gaining qualifications and vital experience in the workplace,” he said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has seen more young people with good A-Levels and Btecs searching for apprenticeships, which offer a vast and growing range of opportunities to gain in-demand occupational skills and industry-recognised qualifications. 

“I’d urge any young person who hasn’t secured the university place they wanted, or who is unsure about the cost of higher education and whether it is the right choice for them, to consider apprenticeship opportunities.”

Georgina Curtis, 20, from Ampthill, Bedfordshire chose a Business Administration apprenticeship with the Greater London Authority as she found higher education didn’t provide the support she needed and wanted with her dyslexia.

She explained:

“I loved the job because it gave me a great opportunity to get a feel for the working world and to create an amazing network of different people internally and externally. It allowed me to not only learn new skills, but to put them into practice.”

Georgina saw her apprenticeship as a “fast-track”, explaining:

“I’m in a better position than many of my friends at university who will come out in a year with no workplace experience and no real-life experience of how to apply for jobs and be interviewed.”

Her role in organisational development included focusing on diversity and inclusion which has helped her to develop a wide range of transferable skills. Having secured a distinction in her apprenticeship, Georgina found she was in a strong position.

She has now secured a new Brand Engagement role with cosmetics giant L’Oréal’s Luxe Division which includes a degree level apprenticeship in chartered management.

“My apprenticeship has provided me with such fantastic skills. I’m extremely ambitious and motivated to develop my career,” she said.

Ben Milligan, 20, from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, also gained good A level grades but, unlike most of his friends, was determined to find an apprenticeship rather than choose university.

“I didn’t want to sit in lectures, I wanted to take the next step and use the experience of an apprenticeship to gain skills,” he said.

He secured an ocean freight exports apprenticeship with DHL Global Forwarding (UK) Ltd and, like Georgina, gained a distinction. Now working in air and ocean exports, he hopes to progress to a management role.

“Personally, I believe I’ve made the right choice,” he said. “I am happy for my friends getting their degrees, it’s a great achievement. But they now have to find jobs and start their careers. 

“I would say to school leavers, don’t just focus your research on universities, give as much attention to apprenticeships. Employers benefit from having an apprentice too, so it’s worth contacting companies to find out about opportunities. 

“It’s important to keep your options open and look at what career you’d like to go into and whether it requires a degree. Not everyone will get the results they want, and an apprenticeship is a great option to start your career.”

John Baumback, Seetec’s Group CEO, who started his career as an apprentice with Seetec 37 years ago and progressed to the helm of a business employing more than 2,500 people, said:

“Perceptions of apprenticeships are changing, especially with the introduction of degree apprenticeships.

“But schools and parents still tend to focus on more traditional academic routes and university. There is a fantastic range of apprenticeships and vocational learning out there with some of the top companies and public sector organisations in the country, which combine workplace experience with skills development, providing real opportunities for career success.”

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