Think again: how a Degree Apprenticeship can kick-start your career

Going to uni is a positive life-changing event, but it’s also a route to into engineering that leaves most graduates with a mountain of debt at the start of their careers.

Degree apprenticeships offer a route into engineering that pays a salary and combines Uni-based teaching with the sort of structured, on-the-job training that can put apprentices ahead of their graduate peers.

Alex Deakin – a Degree Apprentice at JLR specialising in Supplier Technical Assistance – is set to graduate from his training scheme in 2020.

Alex Deakin
Alex Deakin

In the second of Student Engineer’s interviews, Alex talks about the role schools can play in encouraging more young people into Degree Apprenticeships, why more companies should offer such roles, what made his application to JLR stand out, and words of advice for anyone considering Degree Apprenticeships.

Was your school proactive in making pupils aware there was a route to a degree that involved the sort of training that you are doing right now?

No unfortunately not, I was left to find out for myself that such a route existed where you could get a degree whilst doing an apprenticeship. This was a shame because I am sure that if more A-level students were aware of the route then many would have applied to do an apprenticeship. That being said, my old school are now very supportive of students who want to take on apprenticeships and have invited myself and other local apprenticeship providers such as GE and accounting firms to careers events. Spreading the message of apprenticeships has been very positively received with many students saying they would rather do an apprenticeship so that they don’t get into a huge debt.

Do you think there is too much emphasis of going to Uni after A levels? If so, can you give your reasons why?

There are many people who have had the time of their lives at University, learned many new skills, broadened their view on the world, had a fantastic experience and are well equipped for a fantastic life and career. For these people University was the right fit and so for a lot of people University is a great route

That being said I do think there is still too much emphasis on going to University in general. There will have been a proportion of students who will have gone to Uni because we have grown up in a society of being told by schools, parents and peers that it is what we must do in order to get a good job. This is only partially true as there will be many students who will have come out with a degree and ended up in jobs for which them having a degree or not having a degree makes no difference whatsoever. We have all heard stories of people who have gone to Uni, racked up a fortune in debt, and ended up working in shops etc which they could have easily done at the age of 16 if they wanted to. These are the people who have been let down by schools and society for over emphasising going to Uni. At the end of the day it is your skills that are required in the market place, not necessarily your degree and I think there is a movement towards realising that which is why there is more of a discussion and push for apprenticeships.  University is brilliant for a lot of young people however I don’t believe it is for everyone.

Degree Apprenticeship

Do you think more people – especially those aged around 18 – would embark on a Degree Apprenticeship if schools promoted them more?

Of course, purely because when you think about it doing a degree apprenticeship is far superior than going to University. With the Degree apprenticeship you get your degree but also all of the industry skills whilst at the same time getting paid. It’s a bit of a no brainer to me. There would also however need to be a bigger push for more companies to provide degree apprenticeships as at the moment there are far more applicants than positions. I believe at JLR in my year for every degree apprenticeship position around 100 people applied, and that figure is only getting bigger as the years go by!

Placements can be really important in making a CV stand out. Did you undertake a placement prior to joining JLR? If so, what did you do, where did you do it, and what key skills has it given you?

I applied and got accepted onto the apprenticeship in my last year of sixth form and so didn’t actually undertake a placement prior to joining JLR. However one thing that I did put in my application was that I had achieved a distinction in my construction qualification at GCSE and had work experience with a builder. I think that the demonstration of practical skills as well as having academic ability will have potentially edged me over some other candidates.

What extracurricular activities do you/have you done that have helped you get your position at JLR?

In my application I discussed a lot about the extracurricular activities that I did such as doing my Duke of Edinburgh gold award, being a young leader in the scouts and playing for my local football team. These all demonstrate that there is more to your personality than just your work as well as that you can work as a team, overcome challenges and practice a particular skill which are valuable traits for an employer.

What other advice do you have for engineering students who want to embark on a Degree Apprenticeship?

My advice would be to have faith in yourself and apply to as many degree apprenticeship schemes as you can. It may seem daunting and you may get rejected from some, as happened to me, but if you get accepted on to just one it will be worth it! Remember in the interview the employers aren’t expecting you to know that much at all really, they will be looking to see how they interact with others, how you react to situations and what kind of potential you have to fit into their business. Also, if you do end up applying good luck!

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