register / sign in
welcome back

Talent Don’t Go To Uni: The best way to grow talent is…

09/05/2016 Sophie

After leaving school, the vast majority of young people believe that going to university will give them the upper hand when entering the world of work. But in recent years, more and more teenagers are exploring the idea of apprenticeships instead, as they provide immediate remuneration as well as the opportunity to carry on learning.

But which of these options is the best way to grow talent? Even though university can potentially provide students with a more fun and memorable experience, there is a strong chance that the practical nature of apprenticeships will create better workers.


One of the biggest arguments for apprenticeships and against university is the debt that students will accumulate for things like tuition fees. Although substantial, the current system means that graduates will only pay back their university debt while earning above a threshold. What’s more, repayment amounts aren’t that high and will pale into insignificance when compared with the individual’s pay packet.

Therefore, it is much more relevant to look at earnings over a working lifetime, which historically favoured those with a university degree to the tune of around £100,000. However, things are changing…

In 2013, an ONS report revealed 47 per cent of graduates were working in jobs that did not even require a degree. On top of that, apprentices will usually receive an attractive full-time wage before their university counterparts have even graduated, let alone find a job where their skills are desperately required.


Unless students are learning about a specific subject, such as medicine or law, the career options available to them are vast. In many respects, the topics and themes they cover will have little relevance to work.

Several graduates will agree that the skills acquired whilst on work experience or volunteering were much more beneficial to them than what was learnt during university. Indeed, this is what employers will be interested in when interviewing potential job candidates.

As opposed to understanding the theory behind a certain career, apprentices actually get their hands dirty doing the work. This is particularly important for industries like IT, which changes so rapidly that subjects covered at university could be out-dated and irrelevant when graduates eventually secure a job.


Choosing to attend university is a big commitment, not just because of the financial implications but also on account of how long a degree takes to study. Many will feel this time is not wasted, as university opens up abundant opportunities and life-affirming moments that cannot be found elsewhere.

However, modern-day apprenticeships are now much more focused on the experience. In addition to earning and learning, apprentices get to meet an untold amount of people and can still undergo the ‘student lifestyle.’

Think of what a young person, who is fully of energy and enthusiasm but with no financial or family constraints, could achieve if they turned their back on the 3-5 year commitment of university and went straight into a practical yet fun and fulfilling apprenticeship.


Drawing up a direct comparison between university and apprenticeships can be rather difficult, as a lot comes down to what is on offer as well as the individual in question. However, it is important for school leavers to recognise that university is not the be all and end all. In fact, apprenticeships can give them the same sort of experience while also affording more money and better learning over a shorter period of time.