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24 year old Jessica White from Liverpool is currently undertaking her second apprenticeship as an Assistant Development Officer at Liverpool Mutual Homes.

“I am doing a 5 year Real Estate Degree Apprenticeship at Liverpool John Moores University and at the end of the 5 years I will sit an exam with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors to gain chartered status in addition to the Bachelors of Science.

“I did an apprenticeship when I was 18 with another housing association in a similar type of team and that was a level 2 Business Administration qualification within a new build team. It was similar in the sense that you still got a qualification at the end of it but this differs due to the length of the programme. That apprenticeship served me very well and from that I have been able to build a career that I am in presently. This is obviously the next level in one sense and is just as good as an opportunity as the first one.

“The current 5 year programme actually starts off at level 4 and finishes up with it being level 6.

“The nice thing is that there were others that did the same apprenticeship as myself back when I was studying and working towards my level 2 who have also gone on to build careers.”

It would be fair to say that this clearly demonstrates that there is a progression pathway within this particular sector?

“Definitely! One of my worries was that after completing the level 2 I would reach a point where I would have to seek out the additional levels of learning in order to progress. However, with the introduction of the degree apprenticeships it alleviated any worries as it provided the opportunity towards the next step in my career.”

Was there much in the way of advice and guidance relating to apprenticeships prior to you starting your level 2 apprenticeship?

“No not really, there was very little and I don’t think that has changed much to this day having spoken with other people undertaking the degree apprenticeships. It was a case of you go to school and do your GCSE’s you then go to college and once you’ve done you’re A-levels you’re off to University.

“Apprenticeships seemed to be frowned upon and not seriously considered properly by the colleges even though they are just as valid if not more worthwhile than going off to University if you were studying a vocational subject.

“I am certainly glad that I chose the path that I did by going for an apprenticeship rather than an academic University route.

“It was actually a family member that brought home a leaflet that had been produced by a local authority that broke down some of the detail relating to apprenticeships. It was channels outside of education that provided me with the information needed.”

Having completed one apprenticeship already, has your perception of apprenticeships changed?

“When I was in college I had every intention of going off to University to do a degree, I had the necessary grades etc. but I would have been one of the first to have been affected by the rise in fees and that changed everything to a certain extent!

“It was then that I heard about the degree apprenticeship opportunities available, again I knew very little about them and perhaps couldn’t see that I would be able to build a career from them but I am so thankful that I did choose that route as I would not be where I am today.”

What advice could you offer to people currently seeking apprenticeship opportunities?

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Whether it be career advisors, teachers or employers. It’s good to remember that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, it shows you’re keen. Ultimately you’re making an investment by choosing to pursue an apprenticeship with a company and therefore have the right to ask questions and find out more.”

I am certainly glad that I chose the path that I did…

What was the experience like starting your first apprenticeship?

“It was great to be treated as an adult and to understand that you have responsibility as well as the respect of colleagues. Working in the real world alongside adults is a completely different experience to school or college, its great! You feel valued and part of the company and the benefit of being an apprentice is that you can get to sample all different parts of the organisation and its teams. It provides a wealth of experience and knowledge which you can then build upon. I really enjoyed my apprenticeship, the people were so supportive and helpful and there was no being ‘dropped into the thick of it’ from the first day. You are built up to your role in a nurturing way.

“It can be hard work especially learning work skills such as how to prioritise tasks and building up your communication skills. It’s about gaining confidence that you can do the job you have been given as nine times out of ten it’s a completely new environment of which you would have had little to no experience of before.

“My parents were both really supportive of my choice, they both went on to do degrees later on in life so there was never any formal expectation that once I was 18 I would have to go straight off and seek a University education. Having seen the opportunities that the apprenticeship brought, especially in that first 12 months they were really pleased for me and wanted to see me progress.”

As you are now doing a degree apprenticeship, how often do you attend University?

“I go to University one day a week for about 6 months of the year due to term times etc. I know there are some people out there who say that it’s maybe not the same as a proper full time degree, that’s just not true! I am sat there in the same classes as students who are attending full time courses. It doesn’t matter how it has been funded, you all leave with the exact same qualification! Out of the 30 or so students in our class I would say that approximately 4 of us are there on the degree apprenticeship route.

“My manager at work is my workplace mentor but I also have a University mentor. They’re both incredibly supportive and even from a HR department perspective there is a great deal of support there. There is a great deal of flexibility so much so that topics covered on the course are then embedded into your working life to provide that real world experience and understanding.”

Has the fact that you are there via the apprenticeship route informed other students who may not have known that this route exists?

“There are quite a few people on the course who are quite envious of the degree apprenticeship route and wished that they had known about it sooner!

“I feel very fortunate to be in the position that I am in in that I don’t have the debt that often comes with this level of learning. Another issue I have seen friends come up against, who have gone through full time degrees is that lack of experience at the end of their three years. Because they have opted for the academic route they are lacking that experience which is where I feel the degree apprenticeship route is another way in which it holds an advantage.

“Another sad aspect is that friends who have completed their degrees haven’t necessarily got jobs that reflect the qualification they have worked so hard to achieve! This is why I think the degree apprenticeships are so important.”

What can be done to raise the profile of apprenticeships in your opinion?

“I think colleges could be more supportive as kids can be in college for a lot longer now. In the case of degree apprenticeships, they shouldn’t be viewed as inferior compared to going off to University full time. There needs to be a lot more promotion, as mentioned before, students on the same course as me at University via the apprenticeship route found out via a member of the family.

“The profile needs to be raised and marketed more strongly. Examples such as this where I am sharing my story is a good example of hearing what it is actually like.”

What’s next for Jessica following the completion of the degree apprenticeship?

“I am now essentially at the point of being a junior project manager which again is all thanks to that initial apprenticeship. I have my own projects to manage, my own budgets and I work with design teams to get schemes through planning and constructed.

“In the next five years I would like to become a full project manager and lose the junior element and I think that is achievable especially with the degree apprenticeship.”