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Breaking the stereotype – It’s not all about uni

It’s not all about Uni

“What university are you going to?”

“How many offers have you got so far?”

“You’re not going to university? Oh, right.”

UCAS, UCAS, and more UCAS.

The struggles of going to a private school and not going to university.

Since I was in year 7, I had attended a private school in the North East of England. Long days, Friday evening chapel services, rugby training 3 times a week, every week, wind, rain or shine.

What was not to love?

It was hard to find another pupil who had no interest in going to university.

In fact, I was 1 of only 3 people who didn’t (excluding those who dropped out later). However, I firmly believe a lot of them didn’t want to go but did so because it was expected of them.

I was advised to apply to a university to keep my options open, which I agreed to do and come results day I was offered a place to do Psychology at Leeds Beckett. I decided to defer for a year, just in case (and ultimately forgot to decline a year on and nearly accidentally went to university, but that’s a story for another day!)

Up until about halfway through my GCSEs, I was all for going to university. This is just the normal route. Right?

From a young age, I had never thought of not going to university. It had been drilled into me since I was little and there were no other alternatives post sixth form.

Maybe, learn a trade? Join the army? None of these were for me.

It came as quite a shock to my parents that I didn’t want to go to university, as they also thought it was the only route for me… until I explained to them about apprenticeships.

“An education? You get paid to complete? Impossible.”

The interviews

The idea of getting an apprenticeship was great, but finding one proved to be much harder. I joined 3 apprenticeship agencies to help me find a software apprenticeship.

I heard nothing for months, complete radio silence but I put it down to my lack of expertise in the field. After I received my exam results and deferred my place for a year, I undertook a software development diploma which took me a couple of months to complete. I had teachers emailing me weekly, checking if I had an apprenticeship yet.

“It’s not too late to go to uni.” was the underlying tone of most emails.

Then the day came. One of the agencies called and informed me that I had not one, but two interviews lined up next week.

The first interview came: a huge, multinational corporation based north of the Tyne Tunnel. I entered the building, dressed to the nines, terrified. The day consisted of lots of one-to-one, group activities and solo challenges. I felt like the day went well, however, I had the feeling that I was going to be tiny fish in a massive pond, maybe more like plankton in the Pacific. I left that day feeling dazed and confused.

The following day was my next interview, I had to be in Newcastle to meet the Lead Developer of Invotra at their office for 10am. It was a pretty routine interview, but I felt it went well. A couple of days later, after I was invited for Webex interview with Alison Galvin (CFO,CPO) and Fintan Galvin (CEO).

To start off with, I had never used Webex in my life so I couldn’t get connected, which made me panic a bit. When I eventually did get online, it was going swimmingly (or so I thought). Then I was asked, “what does it mean to be a geek?”. This question threw me.

Alison and Fintan recognised that being a developer just wasn’t for me. However, they saw other potential and asked if I would like to consider doing a Project Management Apprenticeship instead.

After a quick deliberation, I thought “that sounds more like me” and wanted to go for the opportunity which led to a third interview.

The day came when I was to meet Paul Zimmerman (COO) at the Core. We went on to have a friendly, informal interview that left me feeling comfortable and relaxed.  We chatted about football, movies, hobbies, stocks and shares. It was great and I left with a smile.

A week or so had passed, I was sat in my car when my phone rang. It was Alison with great news, she wasn’t just offering me an apprenticeship, but she was also asking me if I was free in December to go to Berlin with them on a staff night out!

Not only was I getting paid to get an education, learning skills that can’t be taught in a classroom, meeting new people and going new places, I was joining a company with a great culture, which was obvious from the start.

With all of these things in mind, not going to uni was the best decision for me.