As schools and colleges reopened this month, students have had to adapt to a new COVID friendly environment, while some school leavers are still debating whether or not to take up their place at university.
With universities being urged to move teaching online and socialising being restricted, many have been left asking – Is it really worth it? How will the experience differ from my peers? What job opportunities will be available to me in three or four years’ time? Is this the right choice for me – and has it always been?
As the education system is left in limbo, Bethany Preston, Operational Support Systems Engineer, who began her career at Arqiva as an apprentice, urges students to consider an apprenticeship as an alternative path. Bethany explains why apprenticeships shouldn’t be overlooked.
A rewarding route
The chance to earn while I learned grabbed my attention initially. Being able to train while studying for valuable qualifications was a rare and welcome opportunity, so I seized it when I came upon it. I achieved my foundation degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering at Arqiva and unlike my peers, I didn’t have the added worry of debt piling up over the years.
However, while the draw was clear to me, misconceptions surrounding vocational roles continue to hinder application numbers. As we all try to navigate the uncertainties of a post-COVID world, choosing a more direct path to full-time employment is becoming more and more appealing and one that I’d urge young people to consider.
Setting myself up for success
For someone like me, who prefers a more hands-on approach to learning, an apprenticeship was the perfect option. Being given practical training from the start allows you to get stuck in from day one. What’s even better is you’re learning from experts – receiving invaluable feedback along the way. My training at Arqiva set me up for success – most importantly, it helped me to build my technical and functional knowledge of broadcast, which is a core part of my job today.
My role involves supporting projects which millions of TV viewers are reliant upon, including the Olympic Games and tennis Grand Slams. Every day, I relish seeing the output of my team’s hard work and get great satisfaction knowing that I was involved.
Building a strong network
What I’ve benefited from the most at Arqiva is working with a wide range of people, all with different life experiences, different backgrounds and with unique insights to share. Moving around teams on rotation instead of being allocated to one for the duration of my training improved my communication and interpersonal skills dramatically. Throughout the programme, I was introduced to different departments across the company allowing me to develop great relationships with employees at all levels. Getting to know how each team operates and what their roles are made working together on future projects much easier. Now it’s become seamless.
Closing the skills gap
There’s no hiding from the fact that the UK is facing a serious skills shortage when it comes to the engineering sector. In 2017, Engineering UK urged the industry to address this crisis, telling the public that by 2025, the UK needed 1.8 million new engineers. Despite this pressure, the dwindling numbers of young people, particularly women, considering this career path has escalated matters. What’s needed to overcome this is a collaborative effort from the industry – engineering firms need to be held accountable if they fail to make their company welcoming to both men and women. Women make up 11% of the engineering workforce globally. This statistic encapsulates the diversity deficit the industry is facing and along with it missed opportunities to engage with unheard voices, people with new perspectives and innovative ideas.
As we continue to deal with the fallout of this year’s results day and grapple with the impact of COVID-19, we mustn’t discount the opportunities that are available to us. 2020 could be the year we change the outdated perceptions surrounding apprenticeships and prevent valuable talent from slipping through the industry’s fingers. We know engineering apprenticeships are in demand: now it’s time we acknowledge their advantages.