Chloe Greenwood, 24, is a Content Manager at award-winning content marketing agency Engage Comms Ltd. She did an apprenticeship in marketing and PR straight from school rather than going to university. Engage Comms was recruiting for a graduate role but its directors Jo and Helen were blown away by Chloe’s professionalism and the skills she’d gained during her apprenticeship and decided to hire her despite not having a degree. Chloe now works with Engage Comms’ clients in the skills sector which include one of the UK’s leading apprenticeship providers and one of the UK’s leading Apprentice Assessment Organisations, bringing her perspective as a former apprentice to the role. Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2018 (#NAW2018) 5-9th March, she’s sharing her story to help raise awareness of the career opportunities apprenticeships can bring.

I went to a very university-driven school so my choice to not follow the same route as the majority of students in my class was a tough one. I never felt sure of what I wanted to do in the future so the thought of going to university to complete a degree that might not actually assist me in my future career seemed like a waste of both time and money to me, regardless of the grades I got. So instead, I went against the grain to find out more about apprenticeships and explore the route of learning and working simultaneously.

It seems like career decisions are being made sooner and sooner with GCSEs impacting A-levels and BTECs which determine further education options, but students are at a disadvantage with the information that’s available to them to base their decisions on. Speaking from experience, the information that I was provided with was basically that university is the only option if I wanted a successful career. The tunnel vision of students and career ‘advisors’ runs the risk of pigeon holing students into tick box professions with clear and easy routes, but realistically the era of a single lifetime career is over. Millennials will spend their lives job-hopping, developing skillsets that will allow them to be agile in the workplace, whatever they end up doing.

In less than four years at Engage Comms, I’ve been promoted to the level that I would have been at by this stage if I had gone to university and I’ve benefited hugely from being part of a small but fast growing business where I have had the chance to learn so much about business and work in so many different sectors. If someone told me seven years ago that I would be doing work in the education sector for one of the UK’s leading Awarding and Apprenticeship Assessment Organisations I probably wouldn’t have even known what they meant, never mind believed them! But I think that having been a successful apprentice gives me a unique advantage within the sector, using knowledge based on my own experience into how apprenticeships can be repositioned as a respected route into a career.

I was lucky in that my family valued the apprenticeship route and were in a position to support me throughout the process, but I’m aware that that’s not always the case. Apprenticeships often get overlooked with an element of parental snobbery, which is something we’re working hard to change on behalf of our skills sector clients at Engage Comms. Over the last two years, apprenticeships have fought their way further and further into the spotlight, but I think there’s still progress to be made to make sure that students recognise them as a solid choice rather than a safety net to fall back on if university doesn’t work out for them.

The National Apprenticeship Week 2018 #WorksForMe campaign is a fantastic opportunity to shout about the benefits of apprenticeships for not only the apprentice themselves but also for employers, communities and the economy. I just hope that the positive messages shared throughout the week will be translated back to students in schools who are already making big decisions about their careers. Whether it’s a 14 year old selecting their GCSE subjects or a mature student looking to return to education to redevelop their skills in order to access higher education, the information shared leading up to and during #NAW2018 will be invaluable and should be optimised and celebrated on all platforms from social media to classrooms.