Academic achievement is not the only measure of success

Over the past week or so, thousands of students across the UK have received official notification of their exam results. For those hoping to gain a place at their chosen university or who are leaving education to enter the jobs market, this marks the culmination of many years of hard work. Gaining the right qualifications will define and shape their futures for years to come.

However, 2020 is different and many students have been left confused, angry and possibly even heart-broken by an emergency results process that has been exposed as seriously flawed. Even with the Government’s embarrassing U-turn, the agony goes on while individuals’ futures hang in the balance. For universities and potential employers, too, it is a very unsatisfactory situation. 

When all the ensuing media and political furor eventually dies down, these unfortunate youngsters will still face having to make crucial decisions about the next phase of their lives. They should not be scarred by a situation that is not of their own making. 

But all need not be lost. One of the great truths is that university is not for everyone; success is not necessarily measured by academic achievement. Everyone has the right to choose their career path and success and personal fulfillment come in many guises.

Gone are the days when every school pupil was encouraged (and expected) to spend years studying for a dubious degree that could leave them in substantial debt and without any real prospect of a job at the end of it all. There are other options, one of those being to take an apprenticeship which will generate income (rather than debt) and leave the individual with a vocational qualification that may well lead to full-time employment, often from the company where they took their apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or over – whether starting out or as part of workplace training to enhance the skills of people already on the payroll. They are not a relic from the past, but a vibrant source of learning for the future. 

Engineering and fabrication are areas where experience, practical knowledge and skills are often regarded as more useful than a degree. Employer and employee can both benefit from the system; indeed, many senior managers at UnitBirwelco have worked their way up in the company having started out as apprentices. ‘Earn as you learn’ is much more than a catchy slogan.