Abbi Laville and Hannah Lea left Wolverhampton Grammar School in 2015 to pursue apprenticeships with two leading companies in Birmingham, back in the Spring of 2016 they came to tell us their story…

It is an unfortunate fact that these days a degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a good job, and some might say that years of study don’t necessarily equip you for the career of your choice. Some students are thinking twice about leaving school and heading for university and more and more are now considering apprenticeships instead.

In 2014/15, 499,900 apprenticeship schemes started in England. As in previous years, the most popular sector was Business, Administration and Law, accounting for 29% of all such placements. Two former students, Hannah Lea and Abbi Laville (OWs 2015), took the decision to follow the apprenticeship route, and both have interesting stories to tell. Hannah applied for the Ernst and Young School Leaver Programme and of the four different routes she could take – audit, tax, TAS (transaction advisory services) and advisory – she chose the Audit Department. She says she always wanted a career in finance. Ernst and Young is a multinational professional services firm, one of the ‘Big Four’ audit firms and is the third largest professional services firm in the world. Abbi chose to pursue a career in law and looked for an apprenticeship supported by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx – the awarding body who run the academic side of her apprenticeship). She is now a Legal Apprentice with Gowling WLG formerly known as Wragge Lawrence Graham and Co, which is a global Top 100 international law firm headquartered in the UK, with offices around the world. It seems Hannah and Abbi were dissuaded from the university path from the outset by the thought of debt – student loans coupled with the cost of living and a diet of beans on toast. Aside from that, they were attracted by the professional environment afforded by an apprenticeship, the fact that companies appeared to value their ‘school-leavers’ as highly as their graduates and an early start on the career ladder.

Abbi was mindful of the stigma of apprenticeships – “I would argue that there’s still a vague stigma attached to apprenticeships on the whole and I was keen to find something that would challenge me a little more than the typical stereotype where apprentices run around making cups of tea all day. If I wasn’t going to university, I needed to be doing something that justified that decision, and wanted the kind of position that I would pat myself on the back for just as much as the students getting into the Russell Group universities would themselves.”

Asked what advice they would give students considering this path – Hannah replied: “Don’t fall down the trap of believing that apprenticeships involve the stereotypical tasks of photocopying and filing. The work has been far from easy and you are always contributing to the team’s end goal and at no point have I felt like a ‘spare part’. Abbi replied: “Go with your gut! If you get excited about the idea of university then it’s something for you. If you don’t or you find yourself recoiling at even the vaguest mention of UCAS, then remember there are other options out there for you … Would you spend thousands of pounds on something you really didn’t want if you had to pay for it upfront and didn’t have the ‘security’ of knowing that the payment was a long way off?”

Having met Hannah and Abbi we would certainly say they were walking advertisements for smashing the ‘apprenticeship stigma’ – professional, highly intelligent, ambitious and successful.

You can read Hannah and Abbi’s full interviews click here.

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