It’s a long chatty post today, grab a cuppa! This past week lots of teens had their dreaded A Level results day and with GCSE results day just around the corner, I wanted to share my experience with you and show you some options you have, that may not have even crossed your mind…
In High School, my DREAM job was a forensic scientist.. why you ask? I have no clue at all. It just sounded so interesting and fitted in with the subjects I enjoyed – Science and Maths. I had always changed my mind about what career I wanted, it is SO difficult to choose a job at the age of 13, which is when you start choosing your subjects for GCSE nowadays which is crazy! They push for you to decide what job you want to do so you then do relevant subjects, because that then determines what you go on to do after high school… Or that’s what people always tell you. It’s PERFECTLY normal not to have the slightest clue of what you want to do, because there will ALWAYS be options and different paths you can take to achieve your eventual desired outcome. Which is why when it came to choosing my GCSE options I chose subjects that interested me and inspired me. I chose triple science. German and BTEC engineering. Now I know what the majority of people are thinking… ‘Engineering is not for girls‘, ‘Engineering is so dirty‘, ‘Engineering isn’t for smart people‘, ‘OMG BTEC you must be so stupid‘, ‘Only dumb people do BTEC‘, ‘What a waste‘. Stop right there. Firstly, I chose engineering because the current BTEC teacher really inspired me to learn engineering because it’s so broad and widely used, and relevant to every day life, and the subject is so interesting. I saw it as a fun hobby subject, there are so many different fields in engineering, the dirty hands on side is just one tiny little section. Secondly, I chose BTEC engineering in particular because it was course work based, which for me meant that the amount of exams was significantly reduced, which took alot of pressure of me, and doing coursework meant I could spend as much time as I wanted exploring the subject and adding to each assignment. BTEC is NOT for people who aren’t clever enough, it’s for people that learn better with the structure of the course. I’m fed up of people taking the mick out of people doing BTEC. (Sorry, rant over, lets just not judge people okay guys?)
I personally felt like I did really well at GCSE, I got Distinction* in Engineering, A in Maths, B in English Literature and Language, Chemistry and Physics and C in Biology, German and Religious Studies. A good achievement you would think, yet the one grade I was so heartborken about was Maths – I wanted an A* so badly I cried my little heart out when I saw that A. Looking back, how silly was I! I had done so well, yet due to pressures of being the best and personal goals I’d set myself, I felt awful.
I decided that I would go to sixth form as my next step, I didn’t really like exams, but it was always described as a more laid back environment, and at least I’d be in classes with people that wanted to learn that subject, rather than it being forced on them (so I thought, I would kind of disagree)… And I would need to go to Uni to get a degree for Forensic science, so A Levels were my only option in my eyes.
So I studied Physics, Psychology, Chemistry, Maths and initially Further Maths too, but I dropped that a few weeks in, because 5 subjects was too much for my poor brain. My thoughts on sixth form.. I hated it. Every minute. People were still very much in little cliques, teachers turned up to a lesson to give you a PowerPoint presentation then you were on your own, and the exams were so freaking hard. I knew by the end of the first term that I did not want to go to Uni anymore because the style of teaching and lifestyle just did not appeal to me at all. This meant I’d kind of lost motivation for sixth form too because I was going to sixth form to get to Uni, and now I didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to be there. I started exploring my options. My grandad told me about an open evening for a local engineering company that were advertising for apprentices. The Open Evening was a chance to learn about apprenticeships and what they would involve, and give me an insight into the type of engineering I could go in to.
Well, after the open evening I immediately knew that an apprenticeship would suit me so well – Coursework college courses, on site training and getting paid to learn. The company really appealed to me and the opportunity to do an apprenticeship with such a big company would give me a great first step into the door in the huge engineering industry. I applied that very night. I was more keen to just go through the recruitment process of getting an apprenticeship, and if I actually got the apprenticeship then that would be amazing! With over 120 applicants and 6 stages of recruitment, I must admit I was not hopeful. But as each stage passed and I kept progressing through, I was getting super excited. I remember the very day I got the phonecall from my now boss, offering me the job. I was at sixth form, and just stepped out of my physics class to take the call. Getting that offer gave me such a sigh of relief because I really wanted to take another path away from sixth form. I of course accepted and that’s where it all started.
When AS Level results day came around, I wasn’t too hopeful because my heart wasn’t totally in it. I got 3 Us and a C. Ahhhh dear. But you know what, I don’t feel bad, or guilty, or feel like it was a ‘waste’ of a year, because it wasn’t at all. It made me realise what I truly wanted to do and what suited me best. Sometimes you just have to try if you’re not sure, and that’s what I done. I am now doing an Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering Technical Support. It is the most broad engineering apprenticeship which means I can go into any field of engineering I want, which again gives me lots of options and opportunities. From the apprenticeship I get a Level 2 (GCSE equivalent), Level 3 (A Level equivalent), Level 4 (Degree equivalent) qualification and I also do NVQ level 3 which is the work based learning qualification. All apprenticeships vary, but there are so many opportunities to learn it’s worth exploring. Oh and also, I get paid…
My apprenticeship is 4 years long.. so I could easily compare it to Uni…they both have their pros and cons. I was going to list them all – but no, I will let you see what you see as a pro and con of either. But in the end, you end up with the same qualifications, but they are different paths to get there in the same time. With my company they 99% of the time offer you a job at the end, and you’ll already have 4 years experience in the company and gained lots of knowledge around the company, so they see you as a real gem to treasure. I am halfway through my apprenticeship and not one day goes by that I don’t regret the decisions I made to get to where I am now. It is what is best for me, and that is most important.
So my friends, do not worry about the next steps and do not put pressure on yourself, you will get to where you want to be, and there are lots of options to get there – not just apprenticeships or Uni, so my best bit of advice is ALWAYS EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS.
Do your best and do what is best for you.
Here are some links to explore your options, for age 16 and over. Even if you have your heart set on one path, look around, things may surprise you!
If you have any questions about my experience I am happy to answer them, you can comment, tweet me (itsonlykirstyn) or message me on Instagram (itsonlykirstyn).
Good luck to you all!