Apprentice Abigail Lawless - Why I Chose an Apprenticeship

Exeter College Apprentice Abigail Lawless

Date: Wednesday 26 April 2017

When going through education, my aim was to get good grades so that I could go to university. I had always been quite academic and so everyone - including myself - just assumed that would be the case. With hard work and a determination to achieve high, I managed to walk away with A’s in my A-Level results, and was given an unconditional offer from my first choice university to study English.

But my goal, by this point, was no longer something I was passionate about. The truth is, I didn’t really know what it was I wanted to do after university. With tuition fees and student debt constantly increasing, and graduate unemployment rates fluctuating, it became apparent to me that I was at a high risk of wasting three years of my life for nothing. Nothing but thousands of pounds worth of debt.

That’s when I looked into Apprenticeships. The Business Solutions team at Exeter College organised meetings with me to talk through my interests and discuss possible career paths. They then arranged work experience for me in order to decide what it was I actually wanted to do - something that’s not easily established when sat in a classroom. I realised from this process that I wanted to go into the business sector, with particular interest in accountancy.

I was lucky enough to have a work experience placement at Simpkins Edwards, an accountancy firm based in Exeter. This allowed me to get a feel for what it was like to work in a firm, and have more of an insight as to what the work would involve. Not only were the staff friendly, accommodating and supportive during my placement, but I was also offered the opportunity to attend an interview as a result. Not only did this increase my already growing interest in this possible career prospect, it also built my confidence knowing that I had made a good enough impression to be offered an interview.

The interview itself was fairly relaxed, and was a good chance to get to know more about the firm as an employer, and what I could expect if I were to embark on this path as an Apprentice. For me, my biggest worry was that abandoning my choice to go to university would prevent the career progression that I wanted to achieve. I was assured that I could achieve the same end in this role as an apprentice as I would if I were to go to university. With this in mind, when I received a job offer from Simpkins Edwards it was clear what I now aspired to do.

Being an apprentice has been a massive learning curve. I had to adapt myself to full time hours whilst maintaining my AAT studies and learning a practice and job that I had never before done. On-the-job training is vastly different to classroom learning, and so it has required a lot of perseverance and acceptance that things won’t always be perfect straight away. The transition has helped me grow as a person: gaining not only workplace skills, but life lessons that have allowed my confidence and versatility to improve.

Choosing to do an Apprenticeship was the best decision I could’ve made. I felt ready to start my career, and to do so proactively has been an experience I can carry forward in my future developments. I am able to earn a wage rather than paying fees, whilst getting the same level of training I could get from university. I am able to fulfil my passion for travelling, rent my own flat, and still have an enjoyable social life. It was difficult to see all my friends embark on their studies at university, but I am able to say that choosing to do an apprenticeship rather than go to university was the best choice I could’ve made. I would recommend anyone who’s interested in an apprenticeship to follow it, and anyone who hasn’t thought of apprenticeships before to consider it. University may be the right choice for some, but if you want work experience, along with high levels of training and a wage, then the apprenticeship route is the way to go.

My advice:

  1. Do your research - find out exactly what it is you want to do as a career and see if this is possible to do via an apprenticeship scheme. Take any opportunity to do work experience before making a decision.
  2. Always try and make a good impression with employers, even if you’re not at an interview or starting a job with them. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to make a good impression before I was offered an interview, and this gave me a strong basis when it went to the interview stage.
  3. Don’t feel disheartened by the fact that you aren’t going to university (even if all your friends are). Apprenticeships aren’t a ‘back up’ to university, they are an alternative method of education. Even with high grades, and an unconditional offer, I still chose the apprenticeship route as, for me, the on-the-job training aspect offered more for my chosen career path than classroom learning did.
  4. Whatever path you choose to take, make sure it is something you are going to enjoy. Don’t rush the decision. If you need to take a year out to explore options and gain some experience then do so. I enjoy my job, I have wonderful employers, and have met and continue to meet amazing and supportive people. It makes it worth-while getting up each morning.

Abi Lawless


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