Are Apprenticeships The Way Forward?

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.schoolnewThis 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10 Of My Biggest Life Lessons

I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately. I thought about some of the things I have learned over the years. Here is a collection of 10 of my biggest life lessons:

1. Accept compliments!

Don’t question everyone that compliments you. I’m pretty? What me? Really? On what planet? Are you sure? All this is unnecessary, a simple thank you will do. Let it sink in, it was a compliment directed at you, enjoy!

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2. Spontaneity is the way forward

Being spontaneous is the best way to go. Some of the most memorable outings have been unplanned. Is it me or does planning sometimes suck out all the fun from the get go? When my friends call with last minute plans; 98% of the time we have the most fun! I find it’s the events that take longer to organise that don’t always end well.

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3. There is no obligation

If you don’t want to do something, don’t! The keyword here is “Obligation”, if it is your job/duty to do so, I’m advising you to do it! This applies to other scenarios.. We sometimes do things to please others and there is no harm in doing so! However, if something isn’t your cup of tea, don’t feel as though you always have to say yes. With that being said, always make sure you are at least being open minded which brings me to my next lesson…

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4. Be open minded

Explore other options and leave your comfort zone once in a while. Your friends may have invited you to a Roller Disco, you’ve never been, but for some reason you don’t want to go. Think of all the reasons why you don’t want to go and weight up your options. If sitting at home watching TV is your only other option, then why not at least give it a go. It is an opportunity to try something new with the possibility of meeting new people. Once you’ve tried it, you can then cross it off your list! Sitting too comfortably in the comfortable zone could mean you are missing out in the long run.

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5. You don’t need to justify yourself!

My mum has been saying this to me for years. If you make a decision, it is your choice to go ahead with it. If you are happy with your decision and it isn’t affecting anyone else; why do you need to explain yourself? People can plug you all they want, but it is your prerogative to divulge. Try it one day; instead of replying with a full blown reply to justify yourself, say you did it because you wanted to.

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6. Not everyone is going to like you!

Don’t spend time thinking through the reasons why someone could possibly dislike you. Throw that thought to the back of your mind. If someone wants to waste time and energy hating you, then leave them to it! You have bigger fish to fry my friend! Always remind yourself which bill of yours they are contributing to. Oh… they don’t pay any of your bills?

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7. Leave the excuses at home!

We all do it. We get to work a little late and say “My alarm didn’t go off”, when deep down we know it did! Admit it, your Pillow asked you to stay 5 mins longer and you couldn’t resist! One day I was running a little late for work, I had already thought of an excuse to use, instead I said ”Today I was disorganized, I need to sort out my time management”. My manager did not expect that response, he let it slide due to me being honest. Take responsibility for your actions!

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8. Kill them with kindness!

This can apply to all aspects of your life. If anyone has anything bad to say about you, be kind!  Do not stoop to their level; I know it’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day they are only making themselves look bad! If you know it is out of character for you to mirror their actions, then continue as you were. At least no one can badmouth you for being too kind.

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9. Voice your opinions

If you have something to say, say it! Don’t be that person that has a zillion things going through their mind throughout a discussion, yet hesitates to say a word. Be bold; bring it to light, there and then! I was once a very shy girl. I would sit quietly in the corner and barely say anything to anyone. You know that saying “The shy girl catches the worm”, she doesn’t!  (I’m aware this isn’t the actual saying). I wasn’t put on this earth to mimic a tree, no sir! Now I’ve started, I can’t stop and won’t stop!

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10. Be yourself

You are unique, so embrace it! Do whatever blows your hair back. You are a one off, limited edition, non-refundable, non-exchangeable bundle of delightfulness. It’s kind of like when you are proposing your business idea, there’s always a unique selling point. Remind yourself of your unique qualities and run with it!

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You Live and You Learn!