Not all career roads lead to academia…

Not all career roads lead to academia…


One of my 12-year old twins asked me the other day: “When I leave school, do I really have to go to university?” Now, she’s only just started year 8 at High School and although we’re already talking GCSEs (oh yes!), she’s still got time to contemplate her career options. However, her question set me off on one of my pet topics. I retorted that no, she didn’t have to go to uni, and that there were lots of other options open to her, depending on what she wanted to do. “Primary school teacher”, the answer promptly came. So university it is then…

But of course, it doesn’t always have to be like that. At drp we supported the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) on hosting the annual Worcestershire Apprenticeship Awards Evening  on the 12th November, an event we’ve been involved with for a number of years. The fact that managing events is our bread and butter aside, we also believe in the benefits apprenticeships bring to businesses, big and small. It’s a cause close to our collective drp employer hearts.

As director of drpvideo, a team of 25 within drp, I receive many requests for work and a lot of these come from university graduates. Sadly, I find that having spent a couple of years burying their heads in books and work papers, it’s those young people in particular who, at times, appear the most ill-equipped for working life, lacking the right practical skills.

Don’t get me wrong: having gone to uni myself I wouldn’t ever talk anybody out of doing the same thing. For a number of career paths getting a university degree is compulsory, and the academic experience gained invaluable. However, applying for a university course seems to be the default setting for many school leavers these days, without giving any or sufficient consideration to the alternatives. And alternatives there are – apprenticeships being one of them.

Cynical voices claim that apprenticeships are a cheap way for employers to fill vacant roles. I would vehemently dispute this. Taking on an apprentice is an investment. Even more than with more seasoned new employees, you end up spending a lot of time with an apprentice, tutoring and nurturing the budding talent, preparing them for the career ahead, ideally in your company. Because don’t we all want to not only grow but keep great talent? Keeping is so much better than searching, and searching….

Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years and have helped shape the successful economy we have today. In the ‘olden’ days, universities were a privilege of very few. As this changed to an open to (almost) all, apprenticeships got forgotten. At least in the UK. Looking across the Channel to places like Germany, France, Switzerland, you soon realise that apprenticeships inhabit a much higher status in the collective economic mind, and are highly regarded. As for drpvideo, we currently have two apprentices in the team, with another four working in other parts of drp. As a business, we actually practice what we preach.

So why do so many young people in Britain still think they ought to go to university, with a mountain of debt to boot at the end of it? The mood of employers is certainly shifting on the matter, as I reported in a recent post

The key lies in the educational system, those final years at school, when young people prepare and are prepared for their professional life. We have just produced a film for the Worcestershire County Council called “Your Career – Your Future”. It is aimed at students in their final years at school and will be shown in schools up and down the county. Presented by 6th form students, its objective is simple: to show students the different paths into a career and give them real life examples to show how it actually works.

During the production of the film we met with a number of students and employers, and began to understand many of the misconceptions that exist on either side. Many school leavers feel that employers only want people with a university degree, whereas employers want to see talent, commitment and the willingness and patience to develop real practical skills.

We’re hoping that our film will help to alleviate some of these misconceptions and create greater understanding of each other’s expectations meaning all different paths into careers can be considered: apprenticeships and trainee ships, college courses and university degrees. And as the mother of one determined teacher-to-be and one budding actress, I’ll try to do my bit to ensure my kids fully understand their options.

And if you’d like to see the film, please click here;

Dagmar Mackett




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