While her friends have mounting debt and another year of university ahead, one apprentice is already enjoying a successful career.
Jeni Harding is one of hundreds of young people taking the “old-fashioned” route of an apprenticeship into her chosen industry.
With the recession leaving many struggling to find employment anywhere, let alone in their dream role, Jeni decided against going to university, instead opting to get straight into the workplace.
Now, at just 20, she has completed her apprenticeship and has been employed as a full-time web developer by Space & Time Design, a highly-skilled Chelmsford-based web and graphic design agency.
She said: “My friends went to university as they didn’t know what else to do; they were not told about the alternative options, such as an apprenticeship scheme. People seem to think you can walk into any job when you have a degree, but that’s not true right now and many graduates are struggling to find work. I learnt my trade in a busy, modern, commercial environment, while being paid £95 per week – my friends are being paid nothing and are getting into debt.”
Jeni started her apprenticeship in September 2009 as a trainee web developer, completing coursework alongside her day-to-day role. She achieved her NVQ level three IT Users qualification in December 2010, successfully securing a permanent role with Space & Time Design.
She said: “I have learnt so much. I would never be at this level by now had I gone to uni. I am able to build and develop commercial websites and deal day-to-day with our clients. It’s such a thrill when clients call up and ask for me.”
Many more young people will take advantage of apprenticeship schemes this year as Essex County Council has announced plans to place and fund an additional 1,250 by 2012.
But it’s not just the apprentice who benefits.
Jeni was the first apprentice to be taken on by Space & Time Design, but she will not be the last as the company has seen the real benefits in working with apprentices.
Susan MacLennan, sales and marketing manager, said: “For the apprentice, this is a great way to get into a company and prove themselves within a commercial real-world environment, learning at a faster pace and using up-to-date technology and techniques for real clients with real deadlines.
“For us as a company, we get sent so many CVs, it is hard to know whether you are picking the right candidate. Someone may have all A* grades and a first class degree, but it doesn’t make them a commercially viable employee.”
The apprenticeship scheme has allowed Space & Time Design to find an ideal member of staff who hasn’t picked up any bad habits from a non-commercial teaching environment.
But, the scheme is a two-way partnership.
Paul Wood, managing director, said: “You have to be prepared to spend time training your apprentice from scratch, but this does enable you to train them in the correct way for your business and with a commercial direction to the training.
“Having just gone through a major rebrand, Space & Time Design is now focusing heavily within the digital design and development market, creating fantastic web and digital media for our clients. Having Jeni on board has made our transition far smoother. Since she has been here, Jeni has also taken responsibility for ensuring the company and our clients are on top of the latest social media trends.”