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Why I chose an apprenticeship instead of going to university

University graduates
An apprenticeship can be a great alternative to university Credit: Chris Ison/PA

If you had told me a few years ago that I would secure a job in journalism at the age of 19, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. 

I left sixth form with an A* and two A’s in the summer of 2017, but unlike most of my year group who all skipped off to university and moved out of their family homes, I headed into the world of work. Fast forward nearly two years, I am in the last few months of my journalism apprenticeship.

I'm currently 20 years old and have been an Editorial Apprentice at The Daily Telegraph since January 2018, working primarily in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Digital Publishing departments. From writing articles and building content plans to analysing search trends and planning events, my day-to-day role involves a range of different tasks. 

Since leaving school, I’ve always been open and honest about my decision not to get a degree and when writing for the Daily Telegraph last year, I explained why it's wrong to preach university as the only route to success

Yet, I feel some people still assume I chose an apprenticeship because I failed to receive an offer from my preferred choice of university. In actual fact, I took the plunge into the world of work for a number of other reasons. 

First and foremost, I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to explore a new learning environment. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to wave goodbye to education forever, but I needed to break free from the full-time classroom surroundings that I had lived and breathed for 14 years. 

Even though I have always enjoyed the prospect of learning something new, the thought of attending structured lectures and focusing purely on my studies for another three years didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to challenge myself like I had never done before at school, gain practical skills and learn more about a specific industry. After researching various media trainee programmes, I knew an apprenticeship was the way forward to achieving this. 

Ditching an undergraduate degree for an apprenticeship also meant I could start earning a wage alongside my studies. Yes, it would have been possible to manage a part-time job alongside university, but how many graduates can say they have had extensive hands-on experience in the industry in which they wish to pursue their future career?

And most notably, the biggest perk that myself, and other young, non-degree holders enjoy, is being free from student debt. This factor alone was enough to convince me that I should explore alternative options before selling my soul to Student Finance England.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph last month, now Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There are far too many young people who leave university with huge debts, and no clear sense of how their academic qualification has helped their career.” 

While my sixth form peers knew what they wanted to study at university, I was open to a number of different career paths and felt totally overwhelmed by the vast number of undergraduate courses on offer. These factors certainly heightened my fears that a costly degree could leave me overqualified or lead to a similar scenario Mr Johnson highlighted. 

However, by choosing an apprenticeship, I have been able to learn more about the aspects of a job I enjoy and gain a stronger understanding of the different roles I could progress to in the future.

Not only has my apprenticeship enabled me to add practical skills to my CV, it has helped me increase my personal confidence and start building financial foundations for my future. 

Yes, some people may argue that I am foolish for bypassing the opportunity to study at university, but ultimately, I feel more young people should be considering apprenticeships, and the benefits that they can bring.

Combining academic study with work was definitely the best option for me and I’m now hoping to secure a full time job in SEO or publishing after my programme ends. 

Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the progress I have made and have no regrets about my decision. I just wish my 18-year-old self could have seen what I would go on to achieve in such a short period of time.