From Elin Williams – ‘My Blurred World’
DECIDING WHAT PATH TO TAKE AFTER EDUCATION
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It’s not often that I revisit old blog posts; once the words have left my fingertips, that’s it. Saying that, curiosity does sometimes get the better of me and I find myself scrolling through the archives, being reacquainted with the voice of my 17-year-old self, often cringing in the process.
Despite this, it does offer me the opportunity to hold a mirror up to the past and reflect on moments that have shaped my life into what it is today.
I created this blog when I was in my penultimate year of high-school, a time that was stained with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for me in more ways than one.
Bar my usual reflections on all things vision impairment and chronic illness, it seems that something I routinely wrote about in those early days of My Blurred World were my worries for the future, and which path to follow beyond the inevitable final day at school.
I think this is a worry that permeates many teenager’s thoughts, especially for those who are considering their options or looking to retrain.
So today, I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane and reflect on what career advice was bestowed on me during my time in education, some advice I have to share, as well as exploring some of the options that are available to school-leavers. I’ll also be introducing you to Safyan, a hearing impaired person who worked as an apprentice for ITV Cymru – very cool, he’ll be revealing all about the benefits of an apprenticeship and how it helped him on his way to working in the creative industry.
We have a lot to talk about today!
DECISIONS, DECISIONS – MY CAREER ADVICE HISTORY
I was first introduced to a career advisor when I was on the verge of choosing my GCSE subjects.
I remember being inundated with leaflets bearing job titles and paths I could pursue as a result of choosing a particular subject. It was recommended that I should base my choices on this information in order to carve out my desired future. However, I felt quite detached from the suggestions and so I based my choices on the subjects that I enjoyed, making History and French my top picks.
I took a similar approach when choosing my AS/A Level subjects; gravitating towards the things I enjoyed felt much more natural to me rather than attaching myself to something purely based on career prospects.
But it’s in the two final years of school that I felt the pressure mount in terms of future choices.
Unlike many, I didn’t feel particularly tethered to the idea of going to university. As I didn’t have my heart set on a particular Degree, when push came to shove, I decided not to complete the UCAS application process. Considering the fact I didn’t have a Plan B, many were confused by my decision at the time.
But for me, it didn’t seem quite right that my next steps were being restricted by an overarching expectation of continuing my education. University was idealised, and almost expected, as the next step and celebrated for the insight and guidance it could offer. I felt as though my decision to bypass the application process was frowned upon because it wasn’t framed within the image of what was stereotypically ‘the norm’.
It’s at that time that I could have benefited from receiving information about what other options were available to me.
I was offered a few appointments with a career advisor but I unfortunately missed a handful of them due to my long-term health condition.
This meant that I wasn’t exposed to what other options were available beyond school until I became familiar with the concept of apprenticeships and traineeships at the tail-end of my time there.
Once I learnt about these alternative routes, and the benefits that could be derived from them, I started to nurture the idea of taking tentative steps down a path that felt more ‘me’, and I managed to form a prediction of all the things I could learn along the way.
I was lucky to be offered a traineeship in the charity sector for a year after leaving school. It shared many characteristics to an apprenticeship in the sense that I was gaining valuable experience in the workplace, learning from experienced colleagues, training in a field of work I was passionate about, all whilst meeting new people.
From that, I shouldered a door open to a space that was rich with possibilities, a place that I didn’t know existed before.
The working day varied from one day to the next, a concept that was a far cry from school, but I loved it. I strived off the opportunity to build relationships in a way I had never done before, to test myself and push myself out of my comfort zone. I was buoyed by the guaranteed laughter shared over tea breaks and lunch, and hey, a pay packet at the end of every month didn’t hurt.
It gave me the opportunity to grow in confidence and become more self-resilient, and I left with a new set of skills under my belt.
SAFYAN’S STORY: WORKING AS AN APPRENTICE AT ITV
This week marks Apprenticeship Week, and what better way to learn about the benefits of an apprenticeship than to hear from someone who’s been there and completed one?
I might not have completed an apprenticeship myself, but let me introduce you to someone who has: Freelancer Safyan Iqbal, who’s working days now consist of filming and editing videos, and building websites, amongst other things. He took his first steps into the TV industry with ITV Cymru Wales, completing a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media.
Labelling his time at the broadcaster headquarters in Cardiff as “the best experience”, Safyan recalls some of the highlights of his apprenticeship. “I loved doing camerawork, editing packages, and operating the remote camera in the newsroom.”
It was a love of TV and films that urged him to apply for an apprenticeship, as well as the opportunity to learn while on-the-job.
Safyan said: “An apprenticeship really worked for me because I’m always hungry to learn – but this was totally different to school or college. Each day was different. I got to watch camera operators at work, go on cool location shoots, and create my own films. It was the best experience.”
“I wouldn’t be on my way to having a successful media career without my apprenticeship.”
Apprenticeships offer the opportunity for people to train in a field they want to work in and grow their career from day one. Safyan’s experience illustrates how someone has, and can, utilise an apprenticeship to gain the skills they need to carve out a successful career.
Safyan explains that his time at ITV boosted his confidence and helped to build the right skills he needed to establish himself as a freelancer.
Working as part of a team, gaining practical experience within a work environment and earning a wage whilst learning all proved to be key takeaways from Safyan’s time as an apprentice.
He also shares that the experience gave him the opportunity to educate others on how to communicate with a deaf person. “In the office, I was able to promote a lot of deaf awareness and teach communication tips, communication methods and strategies which made sure I was fully included and part of the team.”
Almost all apprenticeships can be adapted and made accessible for disabled learners and Safyan hopes his experience will show other disabled people that apprenticeships can be key to a successful career.
“I wanted to show people that I can do it, and the power of being positive.”
I asked Safyan if he had any words of wisdom to share with other disabled people who might be considering an apprenticeship, to which he replied: “Go for it! Why not? There’s nothing to stop you from doing things you enjoy. It will boost your confidence, and enable you to work in a real-life work environment, giving you the opportunity to see inside the industry you want to work in.”
Reflections and snippets of advice are at the heart of this blog so, naturally, I had to ask Safyan what he would tell his younger self if he could.
His reply? – “The hobby that you fully enjoy doing, make sure you keep going and don’t give up.”
That is a sentiment I can definitely get on board with!
The overarching message in Safyan’s story is an encouragement to others to consider apprenticeships as a route into a successful and rewarding career, and to let nothing hold you back.
I think we all experience doubts about what path to follow at some point, whether it’s at the beginning or further down the line.
“Now what?” is a question I’ve asked myself more times than I care to admit. When it starts to gain traction in my mind, it always manages to attach itself to doubt and uncertainty, placing weight on my shoulders and pushing down, hard.
Something that helped me was a realisation that my future choices weren’t reserved for my teenage-self alone. A fancy for a switch in your career can occur at any point, and there are options out there that can make this happen, take apprenticeships for example.
The mantra “do what’s right for you” is used far too loosely but there are situations that deserve such a tagline, this is one of them.
Which leads us nicely into the advice I would offer any young person on the verge of leaving education, or perhaps someone who is currently reconsidering or exploring their career choice: You don’t have to conform to what you think is expected of you, you don’t have to follow the crowd in order to embolden your prospects.
If there was a piece of advice that my 16-year-old self could have benefited from hearing, it would be this; You should embrace what feels right for you and shape a desire into a reality that fits your own narrative, no one else’s.
In addition to this, if you’re currently reconsidering and exploring your choices, I would recommend getting in touch with a career advisor to see if the support and guidance they can offer could help you identify the next step. If, like me, you weren’t aware that career advice was something that was available beyond those school days, it might be worth testing the waters and seeing if it could work for you now.
Sometimes, pursuing your dream can be the scariest thing of all; the threat of failure can hinge itself on an idea, hindering your confidence, whispering “What if it doesn’t work out?” The question joins others on a rotisserie of doubt, provoking the creation of others as they spin.
I’ve been there. But I’ve found that the most empowering thing of all is to take that leap. You can’t shake off the doubts if you don’t at least try to tear away from them.
University is so often painted as a rite of passage into adult life, an experience that will equip you with lifelong friends, and a better understanding of how to think and learn. But, from my own experience, and from hearing Safyan’s story, it’s clear that university isn’t the only place this can happen.
So, this Apprenticeship Week, I think we need to recognise how vast the landscape of choices really is.
Identifying what you want to do can be difficult, and it’s so easy to neglect possibilities in favour of moulding into a shape that you think is expected of you.
But there are opportunities out there that will accommodate your ambitions and desires, whether it’s an apprenticeship, a traineeship or something else, there are always options.
I’d love to know if you have ever undertaken an apprenticeship yourself, or if you’re considering the possibility of one? Our paths are all different and the way we learn and gain skills varies but I for one think it’s incredibly important to start more conversations about the options that are out there to young people today.
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
Visit Prentisiaethau Cymru / Apprenticeships Cymru on Facebook or @apprenticewales on Twitter and follow the story using the hashtag #AWWales.