One, get a career. Two, go to university. There was little else outside the university route, so it was difficult to figure out just what to do next on your own. Think back to when you were a teenager. Did you know, for sure, what you wanted to do when you left school? Did you have a clear sense of what the working world was like, and what employers were going to want from you?
We could do so much better to inform future students about apprenticeships. I had no advice about apprenticeships, so learning about them wasn't easy at first. But fortunately, there's so much fantastic information online now – if you're motivated, you can unearth all sorts of opportunities. I had that motivation, so I found it. For those who could benefit from a little guidance and a little support, apprenticeships are still too often hidden in plain sight. The latest Industry Apprentice Council report finds that just 22% of apprentices rate the careers advice they received at school or college as 'good' or 'very good', and just 21% were told about apprenticeships. I'm hoping the government's new Careers Strategy will lead to future students making more informed initial career decisions and further improvements to these statistics, because there must be so many more young people out there who could benefit from an apprenticeship.
Neither my school nor my parents really knew about apprenticeships, let alone advocated them as a career option! The result was that their guidance steered me towards university – and it wasn't the right choice for me. I left my Mechanical Engineering degree with a diploma after realising that I wanted to be involved with engineering but not as an engineer (a little peculiar I know!). I wanted to help manage engineering projects instead, putting the knowledge I had to good use by ensuring that big ideas could be translated into tangible successes. So I researched plenty of blue chip companies' career entry options, and that led me to BAE Systems' project management apprenticeship scheme. My parents were sceptical at first, but when I told them that the scheme I had found meant I'd be getting a degree, they were quickly on board. It shows that they valued the qualification as an outcome and I'm willing to bet many parents are of the same mind for their children. Those who graduate from the scheme I'm on get the same degree as someone who has gone down the university route and, as well as this, get a salary and a variety of work experience; I've already worked on projects involving dockyard maintenance, ship modifications and test equipment for manufacturing.
I have found project management to be a lot about interacting with people, and that's what I enjoy – so being in work while I learn is the perfect mix for me. It motivates me to reach my potential in a way I wouldn't have if I'd have stuck with the Mechanical Engineering degree course. I'm not an engineer by trade, but engineering is my passion. 2018's Year of Engineering will showcase how thousands of apprentices in the engineering sector, in STEM roles and others, are helping the sector to flourish. There's so much choice in the engineering industry and, whatever your job role, it's an interesting and varied sector in which to work. I'm living proof that apprenticeships are a fantastic way to start a career in engineering, whatever job role you're interested in, and I will spend my Year of Engineering making that case to as many potential future project managers as I can.