When I told people that I wasn’t going to university, I was met with surprise and confusion. “But you have to go to uni…” Etc. Etc. This quickly changed to intrigue when I then said that I would be getting a degree and that I would be paid to do it. University was somewhat of a pre-requisite at the school I attended. You did your GCSE’s and then your A-levels and then you went to university. It’s just what everyone did. (Well, it was either that or you could take a year out to “find yourself” before inevitably taking up a place at university the year after). I always liked to be different, to take an alternative path.
There was a lot of thought that went into deciding to go for a degree apprentice route and many factors which I had to consider. First of all however, it was about finding the opportunity that was right for me. I was in a fortunate position and I knew what I wanted to do. In that respect, the degree apprentice route was perfect for me. I knew I wanted to be an engineer, I enjoyed both maths and physics and the most important thing, I was passionate about STEM. Passion is the most important asset you can have when applying to a degree apprenticeship course, grades are good but at the end of the day, they are only letters on a piece of paper. What will really make you stand out is your experience, having evidence to back up your passion. In my case, I was an Arkwright scholar, a Teen tech National winner, a Big Bang Fair National Winner and a Land Rover in school’s World Finalist. Investing your time into enrichment schemes like these is a great way of getting valuable experience. (I’ll write a future blog going into more depth on how I got the apprenticeship – spoiler: I was rejected the first time).
Many companies offer degree level apprenticeships and many more will do in the future, due to the government’s apprenticeship levy. Whilst this is generally good news, I would be wary of new schemes and research each one properly. For me, the company was absolutely key. JLR is a fantastic forward thinking company which values it’s employees as it’s most valuable asset. After less than a week here, it already feels like home.
Whilst researching each apprenticeship on offer, the most important consideration was the institution that the degree was being offered by. While this may not be important for many people, it was essential for me that the partner university was one that I would consider applying to through UCAS. This narrowed down the options significantly as I could only find 2 schemes which met my criteria. Jaguar Land Rover and Dyson. Both schemes work closely with Warwick University, currently a top 10 university. I successfully applied to both schemes, which were both amazing opportunities in their own right. The choice between the 2 companies were personal decisions based on the location and loyalty to JLR through the Land Rover in schools challenge I am still a part of. Either would have been an honour to be part of and I realise how lucky I was to have the task of making that decision. I also successfully applied to 5 universities through UCAS for mechanical engineering (Warwick, Durham, Leeds, Bath and Bristol), so why did I reject all 5 for a degree apprenticeship?
With degree apprenticeships, all of the hard work is done prior to the offer with tests and interviews being part of the recruitment process. This means for me, to attend Warwick university through UCAS I would need to achieve A*A*A in my a level examinations. To join the Jaguar Land Rover course the requirement was two C’s or above. This offer took some of the pressure off my A level studies and allowed me to spend more time on more STEM enrichment courses as this is what I enjoyed and was passionate about. I was however, determined to still get the best grades I could and scored A*A*A*A.
Secondly, the experience of working on real life projects whilst learning was very appealing. This was made especially clear at the Warwick University open day, ironically enough. Whilst talking to one of the mechanical engineering students there, he told me that he spends his summers on graduate placement schemes at JLR. His words to me were that he learnt more on those placements than the whole time he was at university – and I knew from then that I had to get on to the degree apprenticeship course. The opportunities and skills I could learn were
Probably the most attractive offering from the degree apprenticeship schemes is being paid to learn. And the massive advantage over university is that I won’t have £60k worth of debt – I will be in the black. The salaries offered are very generous and I will try very hard to not be smug in front of my university going friends.
Having been in the education system for the majority of my life, I also felt that the degree apprenticeship would be an opportunity to become an adult and to be treated as one. I want to be responsible for real life projects and make a real difference and that’s something a degree apprenticeship can offer me.
Opting for a degree apprenticeship is definitely the harder option over university. Balancing the work load with school studies will be intense and it will be difficult. But that’s what it’s all about and I can’t wait. University has many advantages over degree apprenticeships. The scope of courses they offer is huge and if you don’t know what career you want to go into then university is the best place to find out. It’s also a great place for personal development with lots of off term time, it can be a place to find and develop new hobbies. Compared with the average of 28 days annual leave on a degree apprenticeship scheme, university clearly allows more time for extra curricular activities.
With both options, there is an opportunity to move away from home, to meet new people and to grow. The degree apprenticeship was right for me for all the above reasons. It might just be right for you too.
Have you seen our degree apprenticeships?
As a degree apprentice, you’ll help us by preparing for your future and developing the skills to build everyone else’s. You’ll combine learning at the prestigious University of Warwick with a real job working on active projects at Jaguar Land Rover.