With National Apprenticeship Week underway, it is important to promote the essentiality and numerous benefits of apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional educational pathway.

Before I began my apprenticeship with OPEN Youth Trust (OPEN) as an Apprentice Digital Marketing Assistant I was stuck in a position I am sure many other young people find themselves in around their late teens. Due to personal issues and not personally suiting typical classroom education, A-levels were not the best of times for me. I had only really applied to university because I felt I had to – I found that it was the only path in life we were adequately educated on during school. Apprenticeships were barely mentioned, and like most people I thought that the vocations available were limited to bricklaying, carpentry and other manual trades.

That was when I found OPEN, the unique city-centre organisation that is both charity and event venue, and the Digital Marketing program I embarked on. It turns out that apprenticeships are available in everything from graphic design to business management, and it was perfect for me from the get-go.

During my time at OPEN I have gained experience in everything the industry has to offer, building working relationships and connections along the way and getting to decide my own future. University is definitely an option for many, but my apprenticeship has offered a feeling of independence and freedom that I never would have had, had I gone.

Instead of sitting in a lecture, I was photographing a gig, instead of rushing to meet essay deadlines the night before I was creating campaigns with real-world impact. Moreover, I was earning a wage rather than building up a debt that I would be saddled with for life, essentially being paid to become qualified. With more and more people going into over-applied university courses and spending tens of thousands of pounds to afterwards struggle to find work, apprenticeship schemes are proving increasingly favourable.

Overall, it has been a fantastic experience, and apprenticeships should be given the recognition they deserve as a more than viable alternative to traditional education, in way more fields than you would expect. They give you the whole package – theoretical knowledge paired with real-world implementation and the necessary foundations to jump start a real career.