by LAUREN CODLING
CIVIL SERVICE apprenticeships can offer a “high-quality” alternative to the typical university career path, graduates of the scheme have claimed.
Implemented by the UK government, civil service apprenticeships offer a chance for school leavers and those looking for a career change to enrol for their courses. Applicants can choose from a range of options, with an eventual opportunity for a permanent civil servant position in a government department.
Myrah Rawal, 22, recently completed a business administration fast-track apprenticeship,
a two-year, Level 4 higher scheme. Each apprentice is offered a salary between £19,500 (or £22,000 minimum in London) and £27,000.
There are 750 places available.
Rawal has since started work as a policy advisor for the Department for Work and Pensions
(DWP) in June. Initially looking to study law at university, she began to research other options when advised to do so by friends. She immediately knew the apprenticeship scheme would be a good alternative to university.
“I would be earning while learning,” Rawal, who is from London, told Eastern Eye.
Despite her family’s initial shock at her decision not to go to university, Rawal said they supported her when they learnt more about the choices available to her.
Rahil Ali, 23, also recently graduated after two years on a fast track apprenticeship. Now
working as a diversity events co-ordinator for fast stream and early talent, Ali admitted his
family shared similar sentiments.
“After college, I went to university but within a few weeks, I felt it wasn’t for me as I couldn’t find a subject I was passionate about to study for three or four years,” he told Eastern Eye. “I broke the news to my parents and it didn’t go down too great.”
Ali explained that coming from an Asian family, the university route was a tradition. Having a degree is seen as prestigious, so his family thought he was making a mistake and
his life would be more difficult.
However, his father had read about apprenticeship opportunities in the media and Ali, also from London, said he knew it was for him immediately.
“As soon as I found out more about the civil service and its apprenticeship schemes, I knew it was something I wanted to do,” he said.
“I pitched the benefits of it to my family and it lessened their concerns straight away.”
Individuals also avoid growing student debt if they enrol on an apprenticeship course. This
was an aspect which appealed to Rawal and Ali. Both claimed they did not like the idea of
being in debt as a young person at the start of their careers.
The civil service eventually hopes to offer 30,000 apprenticeships by 2020. Currently running 20 schemes across various departments, it has implemented three cross-government apprenticeship programmes.
These include the fast track apprenticeship (offering six schemes including policy, commercial, business and finance), government communications apprenticeship (GCS) and a cyber apprenticeship scheme.
GCS is an 18-month apprenticeship where trainees work in one or more teams across
government, as well as studying towards a diploma in marketing.
The cyber scheme is a two-year programme where individuals learn about protecting data
and digital information from cyber crime.
Although the courses vary, juggling a fulltime job and studying is part of the scheme.
Both Rawal and Ali agreed their line managers and teachers were accommodating if the
workload became overwhelming.
“If I ever needed an extension or time off or a moment away from the desk, my manager
was supportive,” Rawal said. “It was a bit difficult, but it was [also about] learning how to
balance your time.”
Rawal and Ali had friends who enrolled in university but neither felt they were missing
out on the experience.
“It did initially feel like I had missed out. However, whenever I spoke to my friends from
university, they said they wished they had done what I had done,” Ali said.
“I earned a good salary, completed a high level qualification and met other apprentices.
People are now realising that apprenticeships are allowing a high-quality alternative to university,” he added.
Ali believes there are misconceptions about apprenticeship schemes. These can be associated with fears of low wages, low-level qualifications and no job security.
However, he insisted this was not the case for fast track apprenticeships.
“There are so many prospects for long-term progression, so it alleviated a lot of concerns
young people, including myself, had about apprenticeships,” he said.
“My message to other young people who are considering it would be to apply and go for it.
It is a genuine career option as well as a real alternative to university that combines both
work and education.”