Hi everybody – my name is Christine and in this article, I hope to give you some advice about apprenticeship and BTEC routes into a career.
To give you some background I am now a Chartered Engineer but I started my journey 18 years ago. First through a BTEC (software) and then an apprenticeship (electronics) which was sponsored by an employer. I have always been a visual learner and have lately found out I am dyslexic so my best learning style has been through doing rather than reading. When I was young the thought of 4 years of further reading at university was too much so I choose the vocational route. For me, it was a good route to learn and earn; and I haven’t found problems with getting jobs since!
A colleague of mine who also choose this route mentioned to me how it can be a good way to get a feel for what a job is like in a particular career path. This is because you are doing a lot of the practical tasks that you may end up doing in that career. However, doing BTECs and apprenticeships by themselves usually cannot take you all the way to the top of the career ladder and this is something you should be mindful of. That’s not to say you can’t achieve professional or management roles with them alone but from experience, it’s harder. A year after I completed my apprenticeship I started studying part-time with the Open University for a non-engineering-related degree. This combined with my engineering experience was key to me getting my foot in the door for my first non-technician-level role.
Below you can see my summary list of the pros and cons of apprenticeships & BTECs:
- Truer insight into a career path than university
- Their practical style makes them valuable to employers
- Good for those with a less academic way of thinking
- Wide range of courses available
- (Generally) cheaper than doing a degree
- A primary route into traditional trade jobs
- Hard to reach engineer/manager level with these qualifications alone
- Can be niche subjects so less transferable if you choose to move to industry.
Many things have changed in the 18 years since I studied! So the experience I’ve had may be different to yours. There was a degree of unfairness relating to BTEC and A-Level to get into university but this has changed now, which is good as we all learn differently.
You also have the choice of doing vocational-based degrees and within the industry, these are very well received. Another option after you have completed your apprenticeship or BTEC is the Open University. This is useful if you are still working with your employer. It’s not an easy route working full time and studying but you can use it to get your degree/further qualification in your own time.
My biggest piece of advice – enjoy learning. I still enjoy learning new things and moving on to new roles. Don’t think you have to do – or achieve – everything at once.