Being a parent to your children when they are just starting out in their working lives can be uncertain. You only really have your own experience to rely on but the world of work has changed so much in the past generation. I hope my story about how we as a family navigated the choices of 3 kids, all with their own paths to tread, can help others.
I have boy/girl fraternal twins, Charlie & Maisie, who are nearly 21, and George who is 19.
University appeared to be the goal from the teachers’ perspective at the schools careers advice sessions but Charlie always knew that wasn’t what he wanted. He is a ‘hands on’ and active learner and not so motivated by sitting listening to lectures or being told what to do! There was a short presentation about apprenticeships but we mostly had to do research on the government website for more information. He was unsure what he wanted to do but we narrowed it down to science or technology type of jobs at a higher level as he was on course for 3 A levels. We then did an area search of what was available within an hour or so of home and applied to several. Charlie was successful in a level 4 apprenticeship in Digital Technology.
As a parent I totally supported this route for him – his twin sister, Maisie, went to University but they are different characters with different learning styles and I think both chose the correct path to suit their needs. I did feel that school didn’t give enough support or information for this choice though which is a shame – it’s not a second-rate form of education it’s just a different route to often the same outcome!
Charlie’s experience during his apprenticeship has been positive – he learnt how to work within a team, had chance to shadow people in different roles, moved teams to where his skills were most suited and he gained a good qualification. After he completed his level 4 he was offered another apprenticeship in Digital Technology at Degree level.
Perhaps the key thing to consider for parents here is that, essentially, he’ll have his degree within 5 years with lots of work experience and decent pay throughout – his sister will have hers in 3 years, but with no experience and a lot of debt!
It’s true that at times Charlie has felt that he’s missed out on the ‘University experience’, so perhaps it depends whether your child would benefit from those social aspects that University provides over a workplace. But he’s enjoyed going out into the world of work meeting people of all ages and gaining different experiences. His academic time was in week-long blocks involving a hotel stay so this was a change of scenery and a bit of social time with others on his course. The financial rewards of a decent monthly wage has mostly made up for any negative feelings.
My younger son has also chosen an apprenticeship over University. George wanted to stay at home but ultimately the financial aspect swung it for him as he didn’t want any debt – he has started a level 4 Operations Management apprenticeship which is also well paid and has the added bonus of definite employment on completion. His interview was during lockdown over Zoom, his A levels were cancelled and he started and has continued to work from home – so it’s not been an easy situation! So far all is going well and again I think it’s the best choice for him.
As a parent I’d say do some research about the type of apprenticeships, the different skill levels available, how the education is provided and assessed. Think about the sort of learning best suited to your child. Help them look at all options available to them. Allow them to make their choice and support them with the application. Apprenticeships gave my kids options we didn’t previously know existed and have definitely been a positive choice for them.