By Megan Hampton
I love education and have always been very academically-focused. So people often ask me why I chose to do an apprenticeship rather than going to university. My answer is always the same, and it’s quite a simple one. At Microsoft I am surrounded by some of the best people in the industry. I learn a lot more from them than I would from a textbook or a 30-minute lecture. Instead of memorising facts or writing essays, I am developing skills and gaining the business experience which will help me succeed in my career.
Youth unemployment has been an issue in the UK for many years. 66% of employers see work experience as critical in their recruitment process but only 30% offer work experience placements to people in education. This leaves university leavers in a very uncomfortable situation: they have studied and qualified for a degree, but due to a lack of experience they immediately become less hireable.
The Microsoft UK apprenticeship program has allowed me to gain a level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) on top of the invaluable work experience which will kick-start my career.
Apprenticeships, which are encouraged by the UK government due to their success rates, are an obvious answer to this issue. 90% of apprentices stay in employment and 79% say they have better career prospects at the end. This made an apprenticeship the obvious choice for me.
For the past five years, Microsoft UK has been running an apprenticeship program for their partners which included 2,100 Apprentices in 2013/14. The success of this program encouraged Microsoft to take on apprentices of their own last year and I’m proud to be a part of this first cohort of apprentices. The Microsoft UK apprenticeship program has allowed me to gain a level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) on top of the invaluable work experience which will kick-start my career.
I always wanted to get stuck into my career straight away and, as a Microsoft Apprentice it feels as if I’ve skipped ahead, securing a full-time role within one of the largest, most successful international companies at the age of 19. For me, getting a head-start in your career is one of the best parts of being an apprentice.
An apprenticeship also has profound benefits for employers – over 80% of companies say apprentices make their business more productive. It’s also an opportunity for them to mould their future workforce: since apprentices are often young and at the age where its easiest for them to learn, they can be trained to meet the specific needs of their business.
I also want to challenge some of the stereotypes about apprenticeships. As a Microsoft Apprentice I don’t make tea or file colleagues’ paperwork. Instead, I hold equal responsibility and make the same business impact as everybody else in my team. For instance, I am a dedicated project analyst for one of the largest Services UK deals in FY16, a role you wouldn’t necessarily associate with an apprentice.
My advice for school leavers who are undecided about their next steps is to explore and consider every avenue available. I’ve never met an apprentice who wishes they’d gone to university, but I have met many university students who wished they would have considered an apprenticeship. There are endless opportunities out there, so choose what suits you best, not just what you think you’re expected to do.