Different paths to success

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Apprenticeships have been in the news a lot since the Government announced the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy last autumn.

Views on the policy aside, the media interest has shone a spotlight on an education and training pathway which for many years has been entirely associated with overalls and a plunger! A new scheme from The Edge Foundation, aims to raise the status of practical learning, by linking students to aspirational professionals who have taken a vocational pathway.

One such professional is Lucy Ackland, 28, who ignored advice to take A Levels and instead, left school at 16 to do an apprenticeship with engineering company Renishaw plc. After completing several vocational qualifications, Lucy went on to achieve a first class honours degree in engineering. Lucy is now a project manager with the company. She says:

“I’m glad to support Career Footsteps. Graduates who join Renishaw often wish they had had more information about the options open to them, because A-levels are not the only way to go at 16 or 18. I’ve been working full time since I was 16 and Renishaw helped me go all the way to a good degree so I don’t have university debts. Apprenticeships still have a stigma that people think they are for people who aren’t academic and I hope this campaign will help to change that.”

What if you don’t go to university?

Research by Edge in 2015 showed that a third of graduates thought their degree had been a waste of money and over a quarter (27 per cent) said they would have considered an apprenticeship if they were making the decision again.

Archie Hewlett wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he left school and so opted for a psychology degree at Durham University. At the last minute he realised his heart wasn’t in it and that university wasn’t for him. After spending some time travelling, Archie identified a gap in the fashion market – for an affordable, attractive and comfortable slip-on shoe.

With £9,000 from his parents – the cost of one year’s university fees – Archie launched his own company, Duke & Dexter. Just a couple of years later and the company is turning over a seven-figure sum, with the range selling in 85 countries and gracing the feet of celebrity clients such as Poppy Delavigne and Tiny Tempah. Actor Eddy Redmayne wore a pair to collect his Oscar last year.

Archie says:

“I went to a brilliant school, but it was completely geared towards getting students into university and I had never really considered anything else. I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. The concept was to run a business, make it grow and enjoy the process. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s an opportunity to build something that shows your ability and you can enjoy. Our aim was to revamp the slipper market.”

Schools and volunteer professionals can sign up to take part in Career Footsteps here.

The Edge Foundation is an independent education foundation, dedicated to raising the status of practical, technical and vocational learning.

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