GCSE results are out: A-levels aren’t the only option, says apprentice

When Rachael Carr got her GCSE results, she decided not to carry on with A-Levels but to go down the vocational pathway.

She is now on a Higher Apprenticeship with BAE Systems. In a recent article for the Telegraph, Rachael explains why chose to do an apprenticeship.

After I finished school, I went to college and did a BTEC National diploma. I did the vocational course straight from school and didn’t do A levels. My college was a vocational college and they offered apprenticeships via a careers evening. I only applied to two companies and was fortunate enough to get offers from them both. I chose to go to BAE Systems.

“I was one of six girls out of 82 apprentices. It was a little strange, but then again, on my college course, I was the only girl. I’m actually now doing a part time engineering degree and, again, I’m the only girl on my course. It wasn’t too difficult taking a different route to my friends who went on to study A levels. I was quite stubborn-minded when it came to what I wanted to do. I was the only one out of my peers that chose to do an apprenticeship.

“For me it was cut and dry – I was going to do an apprenticeship, end of. I knew I didn’t want to be a student any more. However, if people are really struggling to decide whether a vocational course is for them or not, there are events like the Skills Show and both regional and national careers fairs that can give you an idea of what it’s all about.

“You should also try speaking to someone currently taking an apprenticeship – there’s no harm in asking what others think. In terms of the actual apprenticeship, in my eyes, there’s no better person to teach you, than somebody who has lived in and experienced the industry you’re trying to enter.

“University can often only teach you the academic side of a subject, rather than its practical application. To work, you need to have people that have experienced the industry to guide you.

Many of the top roles in companies are now filled by ex-apprentices who have had experience at all levels. You do get graduates in those positions as well, but they don’t always have that wealth of knowledge behind them.

“You’ll find the younger people who have managed to reach the top quickly, at least in the manufacturing industry, are people who have started on the shop floor and worked their way up. My career has only just started, but I’m confident and happy in the choice I made.”