'Apprenticeships are a great alternative to university'

For #InspiringApprentice Tom Culley, problem solving has been the most rewarding part of his work

Tom Culley says manyof his friends are now jealous of his apprenticeship scheme

I’m Tom Culley and I’m 19 from Waltham Abbey in Essex. I am currently a degree networks apprentice working at BT and I’ve just started my second year.

My day-to-day role involves providing and integrating components of the UK’s core telecoms network, from cards to cables and routers, ensuring they are fully functional so the end-to-end network is working efficiently. This means that every day can bring a different issue, a different method of solving the issue and means that ultimately, I learn something new every day.


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Making tea and coffee

I love my role as we are not treated like the stereotypical apprentice, we don’t make the teas and coffees. We work on the network that serves millions with broadband, TV, phone services and more but most importantly, we are trusted to do this like any other employee. Ultimately, the stereotypes just are not true.

I can confidently say that I am massively supported by my line manager, not only in my role but to spend time outside of my team learning more about the wider company, volunteering and more. I have been well respected and supported by my team members and also those who I have met from the wider business.

My favourite part of my job is speaking with field engineers over the phone and no matter how big the problem, being able to come to a solution. With the amazing amount of support that I get from experienced members of my team around me, no problem is too large for us to resolve and being able to resolve these issues means new faster services for our customers, the commissioning of new 5G cell sites and so much more that keeps our country moving.

Jealous choice

Many of my friends went to university rather than choosing an apprenticeship and I have to say, many are now jealous of the scheme I am on. When I finish my apprenticeship, I will have a BSc in digital and technology solutions and 4 years of experience. Some of my friends will be leaving university with their degree, maybe 1 year of work experience and almost £30,000 of debt! It’s also nice to be able to afford to go out with your friends which isn’t always possible for my friends at university.

After I finish my apprenticeship, I will be able to remain at BT where I hope to continue working in my current team. One day, I hope to manage a team of extremely talented people that we have here at BT.

In 10 years’ time, I hope to still be at BT, having explored more of the business, met more people and hopefully be in some kind of leadership role in technology.

I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone at school at the moment, it is a great alternative to university but, most importantly, is not for those who are less academic or skilled. Apprenticeships are for anyone and it is an amazing way of gaining experience while obtaining the qualifications to make you more employable in the future.

Tom Culley is a second-year degree networks apprentice working at BT. He tells his story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentice campaign

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