Today, live from the new home of Arch Apprentices at Imperial College, London, we heard an insightful conversation about apprentices and university options for those leaving school, as well as what should be considered for younger people and employers alike.
The panel for the debate comprised, Jason Moss, CEO at Arch Apprentices; Paul Hampson, Outreach Manager at the University of Westminster; Leila Navabi, a recently appointed digital apprentice at MTV and Kiera Ashman, a student at Bournemouth University. Megan Wickins facilitated the discussion.
Megan began the discussion by asking the question: “What can businesses and parents do to work together to ensure the best for young talent?” Jason said he was fearful that younger people were being overlooked because they might not be as informed as they should be. Paul agreed: “It’s indicative of many industries that young people don’t know the full extent of what is out there for them.” He wants school leavers to question their own educational needs rather than adhering to convention.
Leila then spoke about her personal experience, explaining that she finished her A Levels last June. She didn’t want to take the ‘traditional’ university approach, having found an apprenticeship via Arch Apprentices at MTV that she wanted to apply for. Leila told the panel about how she felt her decision to do an apprenticeship was considered almost ‘scandalous’ by her peers. Leila is originally from Wales, but has recently moved to London to be able to take part in this apprenticeship.
In answer to Megan’s question, “Do you think you missed out not going to university?”, Leila said that she doesn’t feel like she is missing out and that she is just having a different type of experience. She said: “If you go into an organisation when you are younger, you grow at a quicker rate – everyone around you is more experienced, this is experience is invaluable.”
Kiera is currently studying psychology at Bournemouth University, she wholeheartedly believes that if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do as a career, it’s a good idea to go to university. She believes it helps develop you into an all-rounded person and said, ‘it’s important to have a bit of fun.’ Megan brought up the subject of university debt, to which Keira responded by saying that the debt is only an issue when the person leaves university and is paid back in small amounts when the individual begins to earn money. Kiera also said that lots of people go to university because of the experience – which will be like nothing else they’ll experience again. This point was then juxtaposed by Leila, saying that for her personally it’s been a very freeing experience to be financially independent from her parents. Paul said he thought more universities should invest time and effort into scholarships, to give students more of a choice without the debt.
“If you go into an organisation when you are younger, you grow at a quicker rate – everyone around you is more experienced, this is experience is invaluable.” – Leila Navabi, digital apprentice at MTV
The panel then discussed how apprenticeships and university degrees set up younger people for the future. Jason spoke about the benefits of apprenticeships, he said: “As an apprentice, in 3 to 4 years time you’ll be much further along than someone at university, who is only entering into the world of work years later, the person with the apprenticeship could be considered more valuable.”
An audience question was posed, querying how gender-neutral apprenticeships are? to which Jason said that at Arch Apprentices it is 50/50 split, which is refreshing. Then Leila said that she was one of four apprentices at MTV all of which were women: “It’s clear that there is a concerning gender gap in the wider world of work, which needs to change.”
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Megan asked the panel about why young people might feel ‘pressured’ to go to university. Kiera said that she thinks it’s an ‘old fashioned’ attitude and it’s a shame that people still think that you can only go to university if you are ‘academic’, which in recent times is not the case. Paul said: “A decade ago it was the government’s agenda to make sure 50% of young people were getting a university education. However, courses now are much more specialised and vocational education is coming into the fold.”
The panel touched on the ‘snobbery’ perception, which sometimes exists around apprenticeships. Jason said that it’s time for these attitudes to change; he wants people to stop thinking ‘apprentices are great, but perhaps not for my child’. He then discussed how his son is 18 and has decided he wants to do an apprenticeship, even though he’d been given ample information about university also. Leila believes there is still very much a stigma surrounding apprentices: “There is 100% a taboo around apprenticeships. I left my school last August – everyone tried to convince me not to do an apprenticeship because they didn’t recognise that it’s a great thing to do. The minute you walk into that workplace you have responsibilities and people need to understand that and begin to see apprenticeships as an important role.”
The importance of individuality
To wrap up, Megan gave the panel 30 seconds to advise talented individuals what they should do within their own careers.
Kiera said that if you are specific about your future career then an apprenticeship could be the best option as you can go straight into the industry.
Jason who has been working within apprenticeships for 12 years and has worked with 40,000 apprentices said that the key things that he has observed that adds value to any apprenticeship scheme is:
- Allowing apprentices to grow their networks
- Enabling them to learn from experts every day
- Enabling them to earn a good income
Paul concluded that not everyone is confident enough when leaving school to embark on an apprenticeship therefore university allows them to develop as people. However, he did say that it’s very much an individual choice.
Leila, echoed the others in terms of the importance of individuality when defining your future: “You should do whatever you want to do, I’d personally recommend an apprenticeship, for me it’s been an invaluable experience – you won’t lose anything from doing this and you cannot buy this experience.”
If you missed the debate, tune in here and watch it again.