'The right choice for me'
Apprenticeships in colleges can be a route to some of the top jobs, as Daniel Fraser (right) found out. As an 18-year-old, he turned his back on university and took an apprenticeship at Carshalton College in Surrey. Now, 13 years later, he has risen to become its director of human resources.
Mr Fraser said: "I had finished A-levels, and there was that choice about going to university or doing something where I could get a job and start my career. It (my apprenticeship) gave me the chance to be able to get on and earn some money. I had friends who were going to university and I think they probably felt a bit jealous.
"Following completion of their studies, some of them found it quite difficult to get into the professions they wanted to go into. I was gaining experience while continuing to do bits and pieces of professional development. It was the right choice for me."
Mr Fraser said he felt he would probably have chosen the wrong course if he had gone to university. At the time he was interested in taking business studies with chemistry or biology, but said he had no idea what job that could lead to. The apprenticeship, on the other hand, gave him practical experience of a number of roles.
"It was quite generalised, so I got exposure across many different areas, human resources, payroll and so on. Quite quickly, I took more responsibility and progressed through the levels of HR," he said.
Despite more than a decade working at the college, in Sutton, south-west London, Mr Fraser said the job has continually presented new challenges.
"Moving from apprentice to HR director has been about five or six stages, so there have always been new opportunities. I would hope it's a good advertisement for the college: we are able to recruit students, showing as an employer we are committed to apprenticeships and to promotion and personal development of staff."
After a period of decline in the numbers of apprentices recruited, the college is aiming to increase them again in line with the Association of College's aims.
Mr Fraser said colleges should do more to promote opportunities they offer, since most students are unaware that colleges offer jobs with training, as well as courses.
"I stumbled across my apprenticeship. I didn't have any specific careers advice.
"Historically, there is this perception that apprenticeships are for engineering, electrical installation . and not necessarily some of the more professional fields like HR or acccountancy."