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Apprentices: hired or fired?

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Studies show that the decision to opt for university is an ever-exacerbating one; tuition fees rise as the chances of gaining a job decrease. So why do undergraduates pursue this expensive and fickle route? From personal experience it’s a combination of three things. 1: Their profession requires it of them; 2: It’s what is expected of them; or 3: They haven’t a clue what else to do.

The first reason is simple enough. Not every profession provides an alternative route other than university. However, few have the ambition to be a doctor or teacher. The silent majority of undergraduates simply see university as the next compulsory step, but I – I took the path less travelled by.

In my Sixth Form I was the only student who didn’t apply for university and I got a lot of stick for it. I had to have thick skin to defy my teachers, friends and family because they believe university is the only catalyst for success. On the face of things they’re right. Those with degrees earn more than those without and, at the moment, the connotations associated with apprenticeships are extremely negative.

Despite turning my back on university, even I was sceptical about apprenticeships. From what I’d gathered it was cheap, unskilled labour with no future prospects. Though this is still a reality, the face of apprenticeships is rapidly changing. It’s now a far more varied pool of talent since the inclusion of companies providing professional services. In the first year of APM’s Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management major companies like British Airways, CH2M Hill and my company, EC Harris, have taken the first step in hiring.

Amongst the 12 apprentices that have joined this scheme developed by APM and Skills CFA I have seen more drive and ambition than I did in my entire Sixth Form. I can say first hand that apprentices are a different breed. We are hungry for experience, willing to go the extra mile and passionate about our work. Many of my friends who have taken the ‘normal’ path are doing so for the lifestyle. It’s one last opportunity to live with no restrictions, no shame and no responsibilities. Which character would you rather hire?

Just like other social changes in the workplace, employers are realising the potential of school leavers like me. Diversity is key to advancement. By mirroring society in race, gender and now age, pioneering companies can get ahead of the game; they’re able to respond more confidently to change.

As one of the first set of school leavers on the Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management I think we can play a huge part in serving the current generation of project managers and leading the next. I’m sure there are lot of members of the APM who would disagree with my nave argument and I’m keen to hear your perspective.

Does one need a degree to prosper? Do you think teenagers can perform a productive role in project management? Would you hire an apprentice?

Find out more about Higher Apprenticeships in Project Management

Read other blogs in the Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management series:


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  1. Sheilina Somani
    Sheilina Somani 11 January 2013, 01:11 PM

    I had the privilege of spending a morning with Stuart and his colleagues this week.  I came away energised and enthused by the quality of people participating.In answer to Stuart's questions - if the calibre of upcoming apprentices demonstrated by this group is anything to go by; our profession is going to grow, thrive, improve.  So yes, I believe in the investment in Project Management Apprentices.  Yes I'd love to work with them.Clearly a combination of opportunity has combined with excellent selection processes from the invested organisations ... this group of individuals is going to go far and wide ... successfully.