Young people across the country, who have set their sights on becoming the professionals of the future, are choosing to follow a new type of apprenticeship as an alternative to university.
A new wave of school and college leavers are taking on traditional graduate positions as part of on-the-job training, paired with an academic qualification in their chosen field. The combination of practical training and theoretical studies provides essential skills and experience and a career head start.
Traditionally, a degree has been required for young people to enter highly competitive professional sectors such as finance, surveying and the professional services. In recent years, the value of practical training over academics in these fields has increased, with many students studying part-time whilst gaining on the job experience. Increases in tuition fees are also turning students away from education altogether.
Figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England demonstrate the extent of the trend; only 139,000 part-time undergraduate entrants were registered in 2014 compared to 259,000 in 2011.
With many young people now looking for an alternative way to begin their dream career, private companies and future employers are playing a crucial role in helping the next generation of hopefuls, by offering a range of practical training opportunities paired with academic learning.
Amy Wakerley, 20, is part of this wave of ‘new apprentices’ after being offered an opportunity with quantity surveying consultancy Jackson Rowe, who is sponsoring her through her qualifications.
Amy comments: “I didn’t feel the university structure and lifestyle of full-time study was for me and so I decided that on-the-job training coupled with part-time university work would be the best way to start a career in the industry. I looked at a lot of companies and Jackson Rowe was great in getting back to me and assisting me with how my programme would be structured.”
Like many young people, Amy was unsure about what career she wished to pursue, in the end taking inspiration from her uncle. “In my second year at college I was still undecided on a career path. My uncle is a quantity surveyor and he inspired me to research a career in construction as a quantity surveyor. I thought, yes, that describes me!”
Employers who are willing to sponsor young people through part-time study will, like Jackson Rowe, reap the benefits of having a new generation of employees with the academic and theoretical knowledge that university provides, but vitally, the experience in their chosen field.
“I have been encouraged by my colleagues at Jackson Rowe to use the organisational, time-cost evaluation and negotiation skills that I have a natural flair for. Jackson Rowe has been really supportive and has taken a chance with me, so I feel very lucky,” Amy says.
The structure of the programme sees Amy working with Jackson Rowe four days a week, and every Friday studies at Anglia Ruskins University in Essex, where she is studying part-time for a quantity surveying degree. The programme lasts five years, with a further two years study available in order to become a chartered surveyor, so Amy can easily plan both her short and long term goals. Jackson Rowe will provide a crucial guiding hand for Amy’s plans. “The amount of support Jackson Rowe has given me is unlike anything I ever expected. I work with some of the most experienced surveyors in the construction sector; some who have been QSs for 30 years, and so in addition to my university lecturers, I have a massive support network of skilled professionals. I am always given advice on the various university projects I am working towards and I also get to implement what I learn academically in my day-to-day tasks with Jackson Rowe.
“It is great to be on site learning first hand, as opposed to just theoretically enabling me to gain unrivalled knowledge and experience in comparison to some of my peers. And as opposed to working with a larger firm, I can interact with everyone and they’re always available for any questions I have. I don’t feel like just a number, but instead a key part of the team who is contributing to the direction of the company.
Jackson Rowe is underpinned with a commitment to developing young new talent, and has done so since inception 25 years ago. It is also a registered structured training provider with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The company is very active in running apprenticeship and trainee schemes as well as graduate opportunities; an approach that many other businesses should be encouraged to take, under Government initiatives likely to be implemented this month.
Aside from the obvious financial benefits of not having to pay back a student loan, where recent figures have indicated that the average starting salary for a graduate was £14,734 compared to £18,463 for those who had completed apprenticeships or on the job training, there are other key advantages.
For Amy, it is that she knows the expectations required of her in the world of work; in particular, the high standards required of employees of reputable companies such as Jackson Rowe – something that a university degree alone is not able to offer.
“I find it much easier to learn the academic side of things gradually and being able to apply what I learn practically through my day-to-day work. Less of an adjustment period will be required when I finish my studies as I am already used to a nine-to-five working day, the office environment and all the business terms that we use within the industry.”
Jackson Rowe’s motto of ‘proud past; dynamic future’ can certainly be reinforced by the success of young ambitious people like Amy. The recent expansion of Jackson Rowe, who recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, to join the Front3Group, a collaboration of construction and development professionals including Clarson Goff Management and iWS Group, extends Jackson Rowe’s philosophy of offering a mix of youthful imagination and wise experience.
Looking to her exciting future, Amy has already decided what she would like to work on next. “Eventually, I would like to work on a new housing scheme that would have an impact on my local community back home in Essex. A new exciting housing development that would have a positive effect on my family and neighbours would be something to be really proud of.”