“Well, Amie, you’re only 19. Not everyone is cut out for university,” I was told after I dropped out of my degree for a second time in less than two years.
I had fallen wholly out of love with many aspects of the new student life I’d been living for the past year and a half. Fresh out of Year 13, I had felt rushed to make the "£9,000 a year" decision and dedicated myself to studying a BA in animation due to my artistic skill and love for film. After a year, I was disappointed with myself and the course, and decided to transfer to a BA in film studies. That lasted for a whole semester before I dropped out of that, too.
During the latter half of my first year, I crashed. Once I had fallen out with the friends I had made, as teenagers often do, I found myself feeling extremely lost and isolated in my overpriced digs. I was clinically depressed, taking Prozac daily, but still crying on the phone to my poor mother every night.
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'I am clever'
I would think to myself, wiping away my tears of frustration and perceived failure, “I am clever, my A*AB A-level grades prove it.” Sadly, at the time I failed to realise that intelligence had nothing to do with the completion of my degree, a time when I was so skint I couldn’t afford my Tesco shop and so lonely that even the pills weren’t helping.
At Christmas time in 2017, I finally moved back home to Bromley in south-east London to be with my family and "get a real job". The job hunt was a struggle, and the only work that I could find was a full-time position in a waffle shop.
My school had always presented apprenticeships as the "vocational" option; many stories I’d heard were that apprentices worked for £3 an hour, either in a nursery or a construction site. So my assumptions were that apprenticeships were rare, aimed at 16-year-olds who avoided sixth form, and wouldn’t land me my creative dream career.
As I did my time in the waffle shop, I was continually seeking a career as a way out of my dead-end job and stumbled upon WhiteHat’s website while searching for jobs online. Around this time, I met my current boyfriend who is a level 4 network engineering apprentice working in IT. He couldn’t recommend it highly enough. “You earn and learn!” he’d explain. I had the support of my family and nothing to lose, so I applied and was successful.
Throughout all of this, my quality of life as an apprentice greatly increased and my mother didn’t worry about my wellbeing anymore. I got through the application process for WhiteHat with no hitches and found myself being drawn to digital marketing. It’s both creative and analytical, which I found difficult to balance with my choice of course at university. Working, although it was in a waffle shop, was invaluable to growing as a person and finding the courage within myself to take control of my life again.
I have now been a level 3 digital marketing apprentice for six months at consultancy firm Action Sustainability in Angel, Islington. The best thing about my job is that I know I’m going somewhere. Every day I learn new things and am gaining real-life experience in the workplace, which you cannot get from reading a textbook or writing a dissertation, as far as I’m concerned.
Recognising a skills gap
In terms of the day-to-day, you can expect an apprenticeship to be varied. Overall, I support the marketing team on campaigns through social media and email. I have responsibilities involving administration, too, such as handling accounts and dealing with customer queries. As a young professional, I have found that my company is keen to give me work of personal interest in the direction of my career. After recognising a creative skills gap in my company that I could fill, I have also made four animated videos, graphic design work and illustrations for online courses.
There is also a great sense of comfort from already being in the workplace; I am proving myself every day to my employer and am laying the groundwork for a successful career. At university, I feel there is always the impending doom of student debt (probably involving selling a kidney to pay for your ‘mad one’ at freshers), since you’re not guaranteed employment upon finishing your degree.
So apprenticeships are, in my opinion, living proof that, indeed, the advice I was given is true: university shouldn’t be considered a one-size-fits-all solution to kickstarting your career. Especially when you are just leaving school and are unsure of your next steps, apprenticeships are a wonderful, financially risk-free way to grasp the opportunities designed to train and assist young people breaking into a career.
Amie Holmes is a level 3 digital marketing apprentice with Action Sustainability and WhiteHat. Her story is part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign