University or apprenticeship, what’s right for me?

Choosing your next step after A Levels? Jasmin Kaur – a recent higher-level apprentice – shares what she’s learned and her advice for choosing your career path.

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I didn’t know there was an alternative to university…

When I was doing my A Levels, I didn’t even know higher apprenticeships existed. Instead our school took us on trips to universities and prepared us to apply through UCAS. When I discovered that apprenticeships could lead to great, professional careers – and I could work in marketing which was always my ambition – I was surprised.

Know yourself – don’t just do what people expect

Sometimes it is easier to do what everyone expects you to do. However, I knew that I worked better when I did practical, rather than theoretical, things. So even though I had a university place to study business and management with a specialism in marketing, I decided to apply for an apprenticeship in marketing at Lloyds Banking Group instead.

You might have to convince your parents you’re doing the right thing

My parents now think my apprenticeship is the best decision I have ever made. But they were not so enthusiastic when I first told them. My spot at the university was confirmed, but I felt so uncertain about it. Two weeks before I was due to start my degree course in London, I started researching my options online. It didn’t take long for me to see that an apprenticeship was for me. I had to sit my parents down to tell them – they thought it was the end of the world!  

It is a different story now. I have done so well my mother tells everyone about my career choice – and the fact that I am successful, earning money and don’t have any student debt.

Don't think that apprenticeships are the easy option

Getting a place at university was easy compared to my apprenticeship. I think there were 500 or 600 applicants for just 10 places. I had telephone interviews and tests and was then selected to attend an assessment centre for a group exercise.

You also have to work hard. During my apprenticeship, I worked a 35-hour week and fitted one day of studying into that. However, my friends who are now in their third year of uni are stressing about dissertations and student debt, and I think they have it hard, too. When they graduate they will have to look for a job but I am already a successful marketing professional.

An apprenticeship is not for everyone

If you are very academic and more interested in theories than putting things into practice you might not enjoy an apprenticeship as much as a degree. But for me, an apprenticeship was ideal. I had a lot of experience helping with events, volunteering and being a captain of a sports team. If you enjoy working in a team, leading and getting things done, then an apprenticeship could suit you.

Apprentices get paid properly 

Most people think apprentices do the photocopying or filing – I didn’t. I was doing a real, responsible job right from the beginning and you get paid properly as well.

An old school friend was surprised that I was an apprentice, and asked me: “Don’t apprentices get paid £3 an hour?” Well, I started on around £21,000 and now earn £23,000 and am hoping to go for a promotion soon which could lead to a £30,000 salary.

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You get so much more than a qualification

The support you get as an apprentice is fantastic and so is the experience. I have more confidence, I am more organised, I am more mature and I have the personal and professional skills for a successful career. I am in a very different place to people I went to school with who are just starting to get experience of the world of work.

The best bit – I’m saving to buy a home!

I have no student debt, this means I have been able to save towards buying a home. The fact that I could be buying a property age 21 is mental!   

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Jasmin Kaur has just graduated with a Level 4 in Marketing, Communications and Advertising as part of the Lloyds Banking Group higher-level apprenticeship scheme