How my Digital Media Apprenticeship helped me

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How I got there

When I left college I was left with an ultimatum. Did I go to university or choose another path. This was the first time in my life I’d had to make a life changing decision before. Did I want to study a course in digital design for several years, or did I want to find another way into the industry.

As of late, UK university fees are high, unemployment levels are high, and at the time I was left with very little confidence in the system. I didn’t want to spend 3 years working my backside off just to end up in the exact same boat I was in anyway, but anchored down by several tens of thousands of pounds worth of accumulated debt and fees. A quick peek into average Graphic Design salaries and I was surprised to see how low they were. Some reported cases I found on forums were at around the £12,000 mark! All that hard work without even the promise of a good job waiting out at the other side!

The other truth of the matter is that I do not respond well to typical education. I prefer a much more hands on approach. While I am sure that a graphic design course would be one of the more productive of the lot, I still felt like I’d be better suited to just working straight away.

And so I decided my best chance was to look around at my other options. My college, although incredibly helpful in most respects, failed to provide support with any option except university. In their eyes, university was a necessity for anyone who wants to get anywhere in life. I was treated as if my decision to avoid university meant that I had no drive, and wanted a simple job with no more education. At the same time however I was bombarded with messages that the country needs no more graduates and that skilled workers were slowly but surely becoming a rarity.

So without much hesitation I started looking around at what jobs could be available. I had to lower my sights, as I had it set into my mind that I would need to work at the bottom of the industry. I would need to do chores, I would need to fetch the coffee – an issue as I do not drink tea or coffee myself – and I would have very little artistic freedom. After failing to get anything time after time I was getting frustrated. Until I learnt more about apprenticeships.

I applied for multiple apprenticeships with various companies, utilising apprenticeships.org.uk as my main application tool. Within no time I received interviews, including two competitors within the e-learning industry. As I soon found out, e-learning is an industry which nobody ever thinks about, and which the companies themselves have to train staff a little more than usual to cope with their twist on web design. I leaped at the opportunities. Fortunately, the first of these interviews with Epic Learning Group went much better than expected, and I was soon invited back to a tester day, for both myself and my possible employers to test each other out. I fell in love and clearly my new manager did too, as a year later and here I am, writing about the end of my apprenticeship!

How the apprenticeship helped me

The Apprenticeship itself consisted of multiple different aspects. Full time work with the exception of Wednesdays, which were for my day release course at City College Brighton, topped off with heaps of coursework to keep me busy. The coursework went towards  two aspects

  • Level 3 Diploma in Creative and Digital Media Competence
  • Level 3 BTEC Certificate in Creative and Digital Media
  • As well as a Functional skills certificate in IT

The work side was by far the most enriching however. several people have asked me and to each one I say I learnt more relevant skills in even just the first six months of my work with Epic than I have in the four years of Media Studies at both GCSE and A-Level. Fortunately I ended up working in a team who could not have been more helpful, often sending me relevant material and helping me develop myself as a graphic designer.

The course on the other hand is formed of a variety of different units, which learners can pick and choose according to their specific job, allowing me to tailor the course around myself as a graphic designer, and allowing me to bring in my knowledge of photography, video and branding into various different sections.

I was one of two apprentices that Epic hired at the time, though they have since hired two more apprentices, working in different sections of the company.

During that year I was earning a salary not too far below that £12,000 I could have risked as a uni graduate, now earning a much more competitive full time salary after proving myself to the company. I still have a long way to go, however the apprenticeship has helped me become a graphic designer with more real-life application of my experience than most graduates will ever have.

Basically what I’m saying is…

More people need to start considering apprenticeships as a method of training and education. Many people fear the term apprenticeship only applies to technical trades, however this stigma is far from right.

My apprenticeship has proved to be the right decision and I feel confident that in two years time I would be miles ahead of any graduate looking down the same career path as I was.

As with anything, some people are certain to be taking it as an easy path, but is so much more beneficial for individuals (and their companies) for those with drive who want a career and not just a job. I’m sure apprenticeships aren’t for everyone of course, but I think more schools, colleges and workplaces should put more emphasis on apprenticeships as a doorway to a great career.

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