If you could do it all again…Published: 2019-04-04 10:45
For the last month I’ve been working on a series of projects promoting our industry leading apprenticeship program and it’s been great to see the options that are available to young people these days. I’ve spoken to loads of current and ex-apprentices working at Essity to get under the skin of what it’s like to be an apprentice with the company, what opportunities you get, and what their advice would be to someone who is just on the cusp of deciding what to do next.
It really got me thinking about if I could go right back and do the whole career thing again, would I do anything differently?
I went to university and it was a conscious choice after I began studying Business Studies at GCSE level. Business Studies captured my interest and I found studying it
enjoyable interesting (let’s not exaggerate). Fortunately, I got the results I needed at each stage of the examinations and off I went to Lancaster University’s Business School without looking back.
That said, I did have a contingency plan in case I didn’t get the grades I needed which was to do a year in industry. I had a placement lined up to do an engineering apprenticeship but because my first choice was university and I managed to get the grades, I didn’t take up the opportunity.
It seems odd and actually quite patronising that I thought of it as a contingency plan and as something I would have done if I hadn’t got the grades I needed. But in the 90s, this is how careers advisors and teachers pitched apprenticeships to you. I was led to believe that if you were good with your head you went to university, and if you were good with your hands you did an apprenticeship. Only through the experience of work have I realised that’s not actually the case at all.
Fortunately, I don’t think teachers and careers advisors instil that belief these days. Certainly, the apprentices and former apprentices that I’ve been speaking to are not where they are because they didn’t get certain grades. They’re there out of choice because they are smart, driven, ambitious, adding tremendous value to our business, and have the opportunity to work in a wide variety of roles including office based, engineering, planning, procurement, IT and more. The fact that several of our mill managers and the operations director are all former apprentices highlights that there are many roads to success if you choose not to go via the further education route.
So, if I could go back would I still go to university? I suppose the only way to answer that question is to decide if I am happy with what I am doing now. I am because I’ve loved the things I’ve got to do in my career, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, and I definitely wouldn’t change any of it. But what I do know now, that I didn’t realise back then, is that apprenticeships can open the same career opportunities as further education.
Here’s what our current and ex-apprentices think about the opportunities at Essity: