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Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeships: a real alternative to university

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What are the first words that come to mind when you hear the word “apprenticeship”? A low wage? Manual work? Making tea?

This is a common view -- and one even I used to hold. But becoming a Fast Track Apprentice in 2015 completely changed my opinions.

“Am I too old?”

Even though the scheme has no upper age limit, I was still nervous when I joined at 20 that the majority of apprentices would be aged 16 and have entered the scheme straight from school.

Not the case. At the induction event I met apprentices aged 30 and upwards and a number of people who had worked in the Civil Service for years and wanted to take on a new challenge.

“Will I just make the tea?”

I was placed in the Fraud and Error Service within the Department for Work and Pensions. What really struck me from day one was how much responsibility I was given.

You enter the Civil Service as an Executive Officer (EO) -- which is three grades up, depending on the department. As well as the more traditional activities such as job-shadowing, you represent your team at meetings, deal with customers inside and outside of your immediate department, and in some cases the work you do links directly back to Parliament.

I’ve never been treated differently to any other employee due to my being an apprentice. I’ve been given the same opportunities to contribute to pieces of work as anybody else. The only difference I found is that the management teams understand you have competing priorities with your apprenticeship, and they’re often willing to adapt your workload accordingly.

“Is an apprenticeship really an alternative to a degree?”

If you’re considering your options after taking A-Levels, the choice between going into the working world and taking on a degree can be daunting.

Personally, having gone to university in 2013 to study Law, within 8 months it became clear that it wasn’t the right choice for me. After a few temporary jobs, the apprenticeship seemed like a perfect way to start a career, gain a qualification -- and all the while being paid to do so. Since applying for the Fast Track I’ve not once regretted my decision.

I can only draw on my own experiences, but hopefully I’ve dispelled some of the myths around apprenticeships. It can be the stepping stone to your future career if you let it. For me it was and still is a real alternative.

Visit the Fast Track homepage on GOV.UK for more information on who can apply, how to apply and the different apprenticeship schemes on offer. 

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