OS Gabriel Smithson (2017) tells us why University is not the only option.

Hello to all current Stamfordians reading this, my name is Gabriel Smithson and I finished Sixth Form just last year (June 2017). The reason I am writing this article is because my old politics teacher, Mr Tuck, asked me to raise awareness about apprenticeships and trainee schemes, which we both believe is a path not talked about as much as University in schools across the country, and so that leads me to this…

When I was considering options for post school life I was never keen on university for a number of reasons: the debt, my academic results preventing me attending a more renowned university and because I wanted experience of the real world and leave what most of you will know, or will at least come to know in time, as the ‘Stamford Bubble’. This led me to apprenticeships and trainee schemes after I had crossed off the idea of a gap year.

Apprenticeships are a good option because companies will often pay for your education fees (so no uni debt!) and they’re also investing time and effort in helping you develop as you work for them and build up skills. Moreover, you’re getting paid as you work and learn. I am employed for one of the biggest privately owned construction companies in the UK (called Willmott Dixon) as a management trainee, and I am learning to be a quantity surveyor.

For those of you who don’t know what this entails let me explain. I am learning how to prepare contracts.  This involves: cataloguing the required building materials; ongoing cost analysis; feasibility studies; and allocating work to contractors.  Although some of this may sound fairly tedious I can assure you it is not, especially when you get to spend a significant amount of time on site, interacting with lots of different people.  This is in my favourite parts of my apprenticeship as I love to be active and I get to spend lots of time out on site communicating (and learning) with lots of people.  Willmott Dixon are brilliant and I really feel part of the team.

Although I love my job and trainee scheme, that isn’t to say it is for everyone and in some industries University is an absolute must, but I strongly urge everybody in sixth form to explore their options whether they are already decided or not, as there is an apprenticeship or trainee scheme in virtually all industries, from construction to accountancy, from media and design to even the army. The options are truly endless. It is worth me mentioning that lots of the well-known national apprenticeship schemes, such as what Jaguar Landrover, Willmott Dixon, PWC and GSK offer are great, but do not rule out the option of reaching out to small, local businesses who might not be advertising for apprentices but will be incredibly impressed with your desire to work for their company.  Mrs Salt, who is based at the High School, is an outstanding person to talk to about apprenticeships.

I will leave you with my email address for any questions and a few websites that really helped me in finding a number of schemes. As well as that, if anybody is considering a role in construction as an apprentice, Willmott Dixon offer a ‘refer a friend’ scheme to employees which guarantees a 1st interview, which I would be happy to do.

And remember, it doesn’t matter what route or path you choose to take so long as you work incredibly hard. Give yourself every option possible to succeed in it.  Good luck for all of your futures.

Gabriel Smithson.  OS (2017) Apprenticeships.  September 2017.

Useful Websites

Notgoingtouni.co.uk and ratemyapprenticeship.co.uk 

My email

gabriel.smithson@willmottdixon.co.uk