Life Hack: Not going to university? – Breaking the apprenticeship stigma


In 2012, aged 21 and after almost 2 years of deferred entry in to my second year. I had officially made up my mind to drop out of University. Deciding to give myself as many options as possible, I applied to low tuition English taught bachelor programmes outside the UK, as well as higher apprenticeships in project management and land surveying.

So, what are higher apprenticeships?

  • A level 6 Higher Apprenticeship is the vocational equivalent to a university degree.
  • A programme which pays for you to study a degree part time whilst working.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that a lot of young people, particularly those from the African diaspora, aren’t truly aware of the opportunities that can arise from taking the apprenticeship route. Many of our parents may disregard them as a viable option due to lack of awareness to what they entail.

My Experience

That year, I had interviews with two renowned construction companies:

1) Faithful and Gould – A Project Management Company (now part of Atkins) (

Apprenticeship offered: Project Management Consultancy (for construction)

The programme was offering a paid apprenticeship (£250 a week) where you would be shadowing qualified professionals. An integrated degree (paid for by the company) would be available after the first year….

I reached the final round but was uncertain that I wanted to spend 5-6 years committed to one company. After naively expressing that in the interview, I was declined.

2) MACE – A global consultancy and construction firm (

Apprenticeship offered: Land Surveying

Mace were offering a generously paid apprenticeship (£300 weekly) where you would have on site experience as well as the option to obtain a degree or HND.

Although I was accepted onto the programme, I had gained entrance to 2 Scandinavian universities. Ultimately, I decided to continue with architectural engineering.

Apprenticeship in 2018

I must note that all these options were accessible to me during the last recession. Since the recent construction boom, and government offering incentives for companies to take on apprentices, I can imagine that in 2018, there are many more opportunities available.

Extra benefit: There are also travel deductions for apprentices. Those enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme have the option of obtaining an apprentice oyster card with 30% off the standard rate.



Depending on what you want to achieve, from bricklaying to mechanical engineering, be smart about the apprenticeship you choose. There are companies out there using the scheme as an opportunity to employ cheap labour.

Make sure you fully enquire about future opportunities that are available. It’s also a good idea to speak to anyone that has experienced the apprenticeship scheme at the company. If you believe that there are no apprenticeships available for your chosen profession, talk to an advisor. There are companies that will be willing to start schemes.

IF you are hoping to obtain a degree through an apprenticeship, make sure you enquire about it first. It’s a good idea to know what it entails and gauge whether it would be suitable for you. Give yourself as many options as possible, yes there may be rejections but that’s all part of the learning process. If rejected, ask to be given feedback as to why you were not selected. This will give you a better idea on what to improve for the next opportunity.

How to apply:

Apprenticeships are for those who have not completed a degree ages 16 – 24!!!!!!

For help finding out which profession to choose as well as details on average pay salaries:

To find apprenticeships:

Government database:

TFL programmes:

Reed database:

London based:


(Higher apprenticeships – i.e. Higher apprentices work for a company, receiving on-the-job training while the study towards a qualification on the side.)

If you have any employment or business tips and tricks that could help young Igbos and Africans in the UK, please email:


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