In my last year of college we were encouraged to sign up to UCAS and attend university. I hadn’t explored my other options or considered what else I could do as an alternative to university.This is the route we all know so well.
My ideal university learning curve
University was a big learning curve for me; however I always found it lacked something vital. It was all very well having us sit through lectures and tutorials from week to week, handing out assignments and sending us on our merry way. What about prepping us for real life situations? Granted we all followed through and gained a degree; what could we expect to happen next?
Why not teach students about what employers want and the skills they need to obtain? Why not encourage students to get as much experience as they can during university?
Lectures could openly share their own experiences and hopefully inspire their students. At the end students would gain a degree along with great cover letters, CV’s, a portfolio, interview prep and so on. Not forgetting feeling more confident as they enter the world of work.
Having completed a Multimedia degree I look back at some of the modules on my course and wonder if they were really relevant. I would have loved a bit more focus on life after university; the importance of gaining experience, a chance to explore how to approach daunting interviews, time to develop our portfolio’s and prep for our futures.
Is experience a must-have?
Experience seems to be more important than is emphasized, I know this from experience! I’m actually quite puzzled by the concept of some of these internships.I have been lead to believe that internships were a gateway for graduates; an opportunity to gain hands on experience. I have come across companies looking for interns with experience.
So you are telling me I need experience beforehand to get experience? Intriguing! Surely I’m missing something here? If everyone is asking for experience, how will graduates get experience, if you won’t offer experience #catch22.
I am not ruling out the companies out there who seek candidates who are passionate and show genuine interest in the area over candidates with more experience. I’m glad there is living proof you exist! It goes to show that there is hope for graduates struggling to land a job or internship.
I took matters into my own hands and found an internship programme in my 2nd year of University. I was lucky enough to spend 2 months working for a charity called bibic in Somerset. I discovered this internship through the University of East London, their programme ‘Shellstep’ was open to students from all universities.
My second internship was in partnership with the University of West London and the first 2 weeks were spent working on self development. We attended public speaking workshops, developed our CV’s/ cover letters and learned useful interview techniques. It was a wonderful experience and one I will not forget!
Why do unpaid internships still exist?
I understand there are plenty of graduates out there looking for experience, however working for free in this day and age is ludicrous! Travel alone costs an arm and a leg! I am aware that some companies contribute to travel expenses and money towards your sarnies which is better than nothing!
I do wonder if employers expect you to jump on your skateboard and travel from the outskirts of North London to Central London every day. £5 a day won’t stretch very far in terms of life outside of work. Surely unpaid internships should be called “Volunteerships” or something along those lines. Students are volunteering their services after all!
I appreciate websites that ban companies from posting unpaid internships on their job boards. Graduates need to live too! We are hungry to learn but this shouldn’t compromise money towards living/eating.
So are apprenticeships the way forward?
I’ve asked a few youngsters their plans for life after sixth form/ college and its apparent apprenticeships are a hit! Merely out of curiosity I have asked the reason behind their decision and it’s more or less the same answers. “I don’t want to go to university” or “I want experience before I go to university”.
Fair play to those who don’t plan on going to uni; uni isn’t for everyone and it certainly doesn’t guarantee a job. Ensure you explore all your options and go with what suits you. There are tons of apprenticeships schemes appearing from left right and centre catering for college leavers. Far more than what was on offer in my day.
All I can say is grab these opportunities while you can and make the most of them.