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'As an apprentice, I expected to be seen as inferior'

Tes' #InspiringApprentices campaign: Chloe Phillips says her apprenticeship has opened up a new world of possibilities

Chloe Phillips says that apprenticeships can offer many advantages over going to university

My name is Chloe, I am 20 and from Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire. I completed my level 4 professional business administration apprenticeship with the Department for Work and Pensions in December 2018 .
I found out about apprenticeships when my older brother did one, as he didn’t enjoy classroom-based learning environments and enjoyed practical working/learning much more.

At my school, apprenticeships were briefly mentioned, whilst the main focus and push was on sixth form and university. I was in a tutor group at school for "gifted and talented" pupils due to academic capabilities, so university was seen as the natural choice for those within that group.

More on apprenticeships: 'I am proud to be a female Stem apprentice'

Background: Tes launches #InspiringApprentices campaign

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign 

Supportive managers

I expected my apprenticeship to be quite similar to how it was – a practical, working environment where I was given time to study and complete work for my qualification. I expected to be seen as “inferior” as an apprentice, as someone who wasn’t as capable as other staff due to being new, not knowing the role and due to my age.

In reality, I was seen as a very valuable member of staff, someone who could contribute fresh, positive ideas. My colleagues and managers were very supportive of me settling into my role and, in time, I became the person who colleagues would ask questions of rather than the other way round. As an apprentice, I was seen as someone with huge potential. Because of this, I have been given additional support, such as workshops to prepare for applications and interviews.

This support has helped me to pass the recruitment process for the civil service graduate fast stream. I was able to apply, due to being a civil servant, whereas external candidates need a degree to apply. This is a three-year scheme where I will be fast-tracked through three levels of management.

The same level as university graduates

If I had gone to university, I wouldn’t have gained my working experience, life skills, wages or support to help me to get on to the graduate scheme. I am now in the same position as university graduates on the scheme, but without the debt.

My day-to-day work consists of seeing customers and offering them support to move them forwards, ideally into work. I enjoy my job: every day is different, keeping it interesting. My job role has opened me up to many brilliant experiences, such as meeting with MPs and secretaries of state, and attending high-profile events at locations such as the House of Commons.

My favourite part of the job is the flexibility of working that the civil service offers, giving me a work-life balance. A lot of my friends at university are currently swamped in work, not being able to go out due to studying full-time and working, meaning they don’t have the time or money to make memories and go on holidays like myself.

In my job role, I have also met numerous university graduates who did really well but couldn’t get into work due to not having the work-based experience. A lot of graduates I have met have ended up having to do voluntary work to give them the experience or some have ended up getting jobs in areas separate to their degrees. Apprenticeships remove this problem/barrier of gaining employment as they offer the qualification as well as work experience.

Apprenticeships versus university

When I first told my mother that I didn’t want to complete my second year at sixth form after getting two As and a B in my AS levels, she tried to convince me to continue so that I could go to university, as she felt this would be the best route to give me a good career. Despite this, I went with what I felt was best for me, and my mother is now really happy with the choice I made as she sees the opportunities I have had and my career potential. She can also see how far ahead I am with my career compared with my friends of the same age who are at university.

I would highly recommend an apprenticeship to young people trying to decide what to do after school. Although, I believe everyone should do what’s best for them. I didn’t enjoy classroom learning and theory: I wanted to apply what I was learning to the real world, so for me an apprenticeship was perfect. Even better, I got paid for it.

I think young people need to compare where university will get them long-term with the opportunities provided by appenticeships. They need to think about which route will best support them to get a career that they enjoy. Most importantly, they must do what they feel is best for them and not what others think.

Chloe Phillips recently completed a level 4 professional business administration apprenticeship with the Department for Work and Pensions. Her story is part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign

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