As students are busy submitting their UCAS applications, our guest, Ross Aynsley, an apprentice at Royal Bank of Scotland, explains why heading straight to uni isn’t the only route to a successful career.
When I was in sixth form doing my Advanced Highers in 2013, the expectation was that I would go to university. At my school, a lot of time was spent preparing Ucas applications and writing personal statements with almost no mention of other options.
I did actually apply to go to university and I had a place to study Marketing and Economics at Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow. But when I realised the job market was saturated with students searching for work, I decided to do the opposite and try to get my foot in the door of a well-known organisation.
Road to apprenticeship
I was at my wits’ end sifting through countless job sites when I Googled ‘not going to uni’ and found information about an RBS apprenticeship fayre that was happening the next day. I went along and the HR team answered all my questions about the roles available, salaries and career paths.
At the time, RBS was one of the few banks offering an apprenticeship programme. It was putting a lot of emphasis on upcoming talent and I felt as though it would value and invest time in me.
I joined the bank as an apprentice on the Level 3 NVQ for Business & Administration and later decided I wanted to study for a degree. After applying to the degree programme, I was accepted to study for a BSc in Banking and Finance.
My role as an apprentice is highly varied. I work across commercial and private banking on large change projects and for the past 18 months, I’ve been leading part of a large project on improving customer information security across the bank. I’ve been able to work with some of the most senior managers in the bank and it’s been a great learning curve for me.
When I first told my friends I was going to do an apprenticeship, they were sceptical. Most of them were already at university and probably thought an apprenticeship was a lesser endeavour.
I think there can sometimes be a stigma attached to not going to university and I’m not sure whether schools explore the alternatives enough.
Also, people’s perceptions of apprenticeships tend to focus around trades, so an apprenticeship at a bank was hard for some people to get to grips with.
I think that’s changing now though. We have a long way to go to ensure that everyone sees apprenticeships as a serious alternative to University – there’s still more work to be done. Government support for modern apprenticeships has really boosted awareness, and more and more companies are recognising the value that apprentices bring to an organisation.
I often get asked my advice for those choosing between university and an apprenticeship. But what works for one person doesn’t work for another. I think you need to consider the end goal before you decide.
Sometimes a degree is a prerequisite for a job, but if you want to work in an industry where they offer apprenticeships, why would you wait four years or more to secure a position when you can get on a career path and study at the same time?
This is a guest contribution by Ross Aynsley. All views expressed here are Ross’ own, and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.
What do you think about degree apprenticeships? Do you get the best of both worlds or should you concentrate on studying first and then working after?