'I hated school and couldn’t wait to leave'

#InspiringApprentices: Dexter Hutchings saw his apprenticeship as an escape from education, but then it changed his life

Dexter Hutchings

After falling behind in school, this apprentice found his training paved the way back into education

My name is Dexter Hutchings, I am 19, and live in Epsom in Surrey. I am currently completing a level 6 apprenticeship in digital marketing at London South Bank University, and work for education charity the Edge Foundation.

I am only a few months into my studies, having previously completed a level 3 apprenticeship in the same subject, also whilst working at Edge.

More on this: 'I struggled throughout my time at university'

Read more: Parents still prefer university to apprenticeships

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign

Pushed towards A levels

My apprenticeship journey started like many other apprentices. Careers education was practically non-existent at my school and they pushed me towards A-levels and university. Although this route can work well for a lot of students, I believe many would benefit from a more "hands-on experience".

After starting sixth form, I quickly fell behind. My school did little to help and I quickly realised I had made the wrong choice; so I did my own research into apprenticeships. My older sister had started an apprenticeship in business administration and it was obvious that she was not only really happy at work, but was learning and taking on new responsibilities.

Maybe an apprenticeship would be a good choice for me? The problem was that I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted do, for what could be the rest of my working life. I left sixth form and started working part-time until I enrolled at my local FE college, which also wasn’t the right fit for me. I looked again at apprenticeships and was lucky enough to find Edge.

'It changed my life'

In February 2017 I was offered a digital marketing apprentice role with the Edge Foundation. It took me 12 months and afterwards, I was offered a full-time role as marketing and digital communications executive.

My role at Edge consists of running social media accounts, updating the organisation’s website, liaising with designers, working with the research team and completing many other exciting tasks.

My level 3 changed my life and got me back on track. My options opened up and instead of rejecting education, because it made me feel inadequate and a failure because I couldn’t jump through the exam hoops, I became ambitious, confident, and resilient and open to the idea of further study to progress my career.

Continuing my education

That idea came to life at the start of 2019. I spoke to my employers and decided I was ready to continue my education – I was going to go to university. Had you told me or my teachers this when I walked out of sixth form, both of us would probably have told you that there was no chance.

Continuing my education at degree level is the second best decision I’ve ever made; my level 3 takes the top spot! I enjoy working at Edge, I have great colleagues and now I get to test myself further, extend my knowledge and put what I learn into practice at the same time. It’s great to have an employer that is willing to invest in you. Edge have always allowed me the time I need to continue my studies. I have a great working relationship with the team and have felt valued from day one.

My passion for both apprenticeships and my day to day job role has been fundamental to my development. People have always said, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work again”. This may not be completely true, but it’s certainly close. I love my job and that definitely makes getting up in the morning a lot easier.

It has also been key to my education. I hated school and couldn’t wait to leave. At first my apprenticeship was an escape from traditional education, it was my way of showing those who didn’t believe in me that I could take a different route and still be successful.

Inspiring and highly driven

However, it has quickly become a lot more than that and it didn’t take long for me to realise that I had made the right choice.

My own experience at school, motivated me to become a member of the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YAAN). This is a community of inspiring, highly-driven apprentices and former apprentices, who share their apprenticeship story with students in schools.

As a member of the YAAN I have given speeches at numerous schools, published essays, spoken at events such as Skills London and gave the keynote address to 850 guests at the National Apprenticeship Awards in 2018.

One of my greatest YAAN opportunities was being published in the Learning and Work Institute’s report on the quality and accessibility of apprenticeships. My essay was chosen to give the apprentice’s perspective. For someone who struggled with GCSE English, it feels like a huge achievement. As a result, I was invited to be a member of the discussion panel at the report’s launch at the House of Commons earlier this year.

Boundless possibilities

My apprenticeship has given me the freedom to do the things I love and some incredible opportunities. I never thought I would go to university, but my level 3 opened that door. I know my level 6 will kick down many more doors and I have no idea where I will be in 10 years time but with the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired through my apprenticeship, the possibilities seem boundless. One day I would love to lead a team or own my company.

Apprenticeships could potentially hold the key to so many young people’s futures and the only advice I can give is look into them and don’t ever rule them out.

Dexter Hutchings is a Level 6 digital marketing apprentice with London South Bank University and the Edge Foundation. He tells his story as part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

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