Stephen is currently on the Technical Practice apprenticeship scheme within the Payments Development Centre, but his route to this apprenticeship was not the most conventional. Here he talks through how a series of events led him to a fresh start.
When I was growing up, my “dream job” was to become a Sound Engineer in television or film – which is what led me to going to university to study Audio & Music Technology. I was at university for 4 years when I decided to leave, a year longer than most degrees take to complete!
I remember having this feeling that I could be more when I was working than when I was in a lecture hall.
“ I think my biggest fear about deciding to leave university was that I might find out that feeling was wrong, then I’d be lumped with debt and no degree. ”
I know a few students who finished degrees they hated simply because they had so much invested. I was scared I’d find myself with the debt and nothing to show for it.
But I simply didn't want to carry on anymore, I was finding the lack of freedom in that form of education frustrating, my grades were slipping and I simply wasn't engaged. With this in mind, I left university and went back to working in retail – something I’d done since I was 15.
“ When I came across Apprenticeships I had the thought “I've been good at all the jobs I've done, so instead of balancing education and work, why not just combine the two?” ”
I was looking to open a new non-student account with Nationwide when I came back from University and just happened to click over to the careers site. Whether that’s fate or coincidence I don’t know, but I’m glad it happened!
When I was studying at uni the progression with my degree was paced, it followed a set guideline and everyone achieved the same goals at the same time. The end goal at university is a degree, it’s a static target that won’t change even if you suddenly change your mind.
“ What I like about the apprenticeship programme is that the progression is as fast (or slow!) as I want it to be. I’m not being held to the standards of the person next to me, which gives me a lot more independence. ”
The scheme lets me forge my own path. There’s no requirement that I spend the rest of my life in the Technical world just because I did a Technical Apprenticeship! For someone like me who changes life goals like he changes tie, it’s amazing to have that flexibility. I hated being held to a standard I had no control over.
“ I have more time than ever for my personal life. Having evenings and weekends has opened up my world! ”
Since joining Nationwide I’ve become a genuine part of the work force. I thought this would just be a typical 9 to 5, but it’s so much more than that! I’m constantly meeting new people and learning new ways to improve my skills.
In my spare time, I still create music and do part time freelance sound editing (mostly for student films, ironically), but I’ve started getting back to my tech roots with Engineering projects. I’m also currently building a mini sound studio in my bedroom out of second hand gear and collected pieces I’ve picked up over the years! The amazing pay at Nationwide means I can upgrade some of this gear while still saving!
“ Ignore the stereotype that University is just for smart people. ”
I didn’t enjoy Higher Education, I enjoyed work. I made the decision to go to uni because it’s what I thought I ‘should’ do. My teachers, family, even the media bombarded me with messages telling me to go to Uni and it didn’t work out for me.
I think it’s been a rollercoaster and an eye-opener for my family and myself. When I left University my parents were so disappointed (FOR me, rather than at me) but in the 6 months I’ve been with the company I’ve won awards, worked on huge projects I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been. I think they’re proud of me but at this point I think they’re still in shock! My dad did an Apprenticeship in the 60’s and it’s a different world to him. When I told him I’d won my first award he said “Award? When I was an Apprentice we were lucky to get lunch…” Thanks dad!
I definitely think it’s time to change the way we think of Apprenticeships. We’re no longer tea makers, document filers or part timers. The question should no longer be “What is an Apprenticeship?” it should be “What CAN an Apprenticeship be?” Because it really is what you make it!
Find out more
Our Technical Practice team are responsible for a range of tasks including transforming business requirements into technical solutions.
If you're interested in finding out more or applying, visit the Technical Development Programme page.