When I left secondary school, I was told I had two options: go to university, or get a job and attend university after a year’s break. There was no mention of the third option: an apprenticeship.
I was put into different careers classes from others who had perhaps not done so well in their exams – I got given advice about university applications, and they were told about the failsafe apprenticeship scheme. Already there was a distinct divide between the year group, and apprenticeships were quickly viewed as a ‘back-up’ plan; a place to go if you didn’t manage to make it into university.
I was always wrongly told that I was too smart for an apprenticeship. Even I myself adopted the snobbish attitude that my academic talents would be wasted in a plumbing or mechanical apprenticeship.
Sure, we had the workshops – the overheated auditorium with way too many people and the distracting smell of lunch seeping through the cracks in the door, with a woman wearing a suit and a backpack telling us how we ‘shouldn’t worry if we don’t make it – there’s always an apprenticeship to fall back on’. And so the stigma was heightened – people were embarrassed to say that they were applying for one while their friends signed off their UCAS statements. In fact, I’m not quite sure I know anybody in my year at school that wanted to be an apprentice.
So when I first saw the job I’m in right now being advertised, I paled.
It was my dream job – working alongside award-winning journalists in an action packed newsroom in one of Scotland’s largest television firms. I was so excited to apply, but when I clicked into the description, I am ashamed to say that I almost turned this fantastic opportunity down because of one word: apprenticeship.
I was due to start university in one week – did I want to withdraw my place just to become an apprentice? To run around after superiors and offer countless amounts of tea and coffee? To have to turn down the scholarship I had been offered just to earn a shitty apprentice wage and be separated from my friends?
Nevertheless, I went for it. My curiosity to see just what this job would entail overrode my trepidation of being branded an apprentice.
And boy, I’m glad I did it.
For the first few weeks, I was embarrassed to call my new job an apprenticeship. Even although I was meeting new people, writing real-life news pieces and making very occasional hot drinks, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the niggle at the back of my mind that seemed to remind me where I was. But that all changed after the induction period was over.
Every job starts the same – a chat with HR, a security tour of the building, and countless meetings to get to know your new colleagues. It was during this period that I felt really very small – I was the new girl again.
But in the weeks that followed, I found my surroundings completely changing. I was no longer being told what to do – if I wanted a story, I had to find it for myself. If I wanted to interview somebody, I had to book the room and either call or invite them in all on my own. If I wanted to work, it was up to me.
I wasn’t ‘just the apprentice’ anymore – I felt as though my colleagues had actually forgotten my title, or perhaps didn’t care at all. They suddenly began to treat me as just another journalist in the newsroom, and it was fantastic. I wasn’t being babied, I wasn’t a burden on anybody – it wasn’t like I had expected it to be at all.
In fact, I actually felt as though I had more independence than I would have if I had attended university.
Although I still live with my parents, I make my own way into Glasgow every morning, sometimes stopping in at the bakery to grab a bagel for a walk along the Clyde. I’m earning my own money and making friends with people who love the same things as I do. I’m also attending college part-time at the same time, and gaining a pretty snazzy qualification at the end of it, too.
I’m actually applying to university at the moment, with the intention of starting this September. Last year, I wouldn’t have got into any of the fresher’s events because of my age, and in all honesty, I wasn’t quite ready to move out. But now, if I do eventually go to university, I’ll be a year older, with a whole 12 month’s worth of valuable experience tucked neatly in my belt.
So I’m not saying that university is a waste of time – far from it. But I’m saying don’t be like I was last year – don’t accept the stigma surrounding modern apprenticeships, and if there’s something being offered that you reckon will help your future career, go for it! The contacts I’ve made in this industry have been insane, but I couldn’t have achieved this without taking the plunge and going for a modern apprenticeship.
Because I’m an apprentice, and damn proud of it.
What are your thoughts on apprenticeships? Have you ever been an apprentice?