Degrees vs Apprenticeships

I have now graduated from university, with a 2:1 BA Hons in Public Relations. It’s a fantastic achievement, but after reading more articles on graduate employment struggles and increasing youth unemployment it got me thinking, are apprenticeships the way forward?

University is something that in my secondary school was expected of you. You finished your GCSEs, did your A Levels and off you went to university. Apprenticeships were something you did if you wanted to be a mechanic or a plumber, not something you did if you wanted to go into PR, but why not?

My degree was a four year sandwich course, and in those four years the landscape of public relations has changed dramatically. For one, social media wasn’t the communications tool it is today, in fact when I started university I didn’t even have a Facebook account *shock horror*. I imagine that if I started a PR degree now, it would look a lot different to the one I have studied for the past four years, and that’s a good thing. My gripe is that although the base theory and knowledge I have learnt is still relevant, a lot of the rest of the degree is now pretty out dated. However if I had spent two years straight after my A Levels in a PR apprenticeship at an agency, not only would I be learning on the job but everything I would be learning would be current and up to date.
I’m not denying that there is a place for university and degrees, what I am saying is that there should be other avenues for entering into professions such as PR. Apprenticeships attached to colleges or even universities seem to be a utopia, but there is no reason why they can’t exist in the mainstream. Learning by doing is, in my humble opinion, the best way. Like other practical apprenticeships, students would spend three days in the agency and two days in the class room combining both theory and practical. I recently expressed this opinion in an interview and to my delight (and surprise) was met by agreement from the agency’s director. I know that there are colleges and agencies out there offering these apprenticeships, but I don’t think that’s enough. The CIPR also have a duty to invest in these types of schemes. They need to look past their accredited degrees and into accredited apprenticeships, what’s more they need to be more hands on with students enrolled on accredited courses, they are after all the future of the industry.

I don’t regret going down the university route, it was the only real option for me at the time. However I think the Government and the likes of the CIPR and CIM need to seriously look into the development of professional apprenticeship schemes. They present an opportunity to decrease unemployment (including youth), as well as offering a more rewarding learning process, which could also open up careers to students who may otherwise not have considered industries like PR and Marketing. Apprenticeships is an organisation that are coordinating apprenticeships in all sorts of sectors including marketing, this is something that needs much more focus and funding from the government so that its good work can be offered out to more people. I know if I had been offered this type of scheme I would have definitely chosen it over going to university.