Jon Graham, chief executive of training charity JTL, offers students valuable guidance on their first big career decision

This year's GSCE and A-Level results are now with us. If you were studying yourself, I hope you got the grades you wanted.

After years of study and a long summer of waiting that all-important slip arrives in your hands, and suddenly the question arises: so what next?

Do you feel under pressure to move on into further education? If you're one of this year’s secondary school or college leavers, you may be feeling conflicted and confused about what to do next.

On the one hand, you have the option to go out into the world and earn a living, but this may leave you under-qualified for future opportunities. On the other hand, you have the opportunity to enhance your career opportunities by heading off to university, but you may be worried about the ever-rising debt associated with this choice.

Here at JTL, we want you to know there is another way, and that we can offer you the best of both worlds. By becoming a JTL apprentice you can learn a trade while earning an income, and after completing an apprenticeship, you could be taking home a more than competitive salary, while equipped with highly desired professional skills that will set you up for the rest of your career.

So why take an apprenticeship rather than a degree?

You could be earning more by completing an apprenticeship and will also be earning sooner than someone who goes to university. A report released by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in 2015 showed that an apprenticeship can increase an individual’s lifetime earning potential by up to £150,000. That’s not bad for an education that costs you nothing. Compare that with today’s university students, who will graduate with an average debt of around £45,000 that they could still be paying off in their 50s!

Are you more practically-minded? An apprenticeship might suit you better. It’s worth remembering that an academic degree is not necessarily the right thing for everyone. An apprenticeship does include some college-based theoretical learning, but it is largely based around on-site, practical experience. If you think you are someone who works well with their hands, is good at problem-solving and getting jobs done to a high standard, an apprenticeship in the mechanical engineering services industry could suit you perfectly.

With an apprenticeship you are setting yourself up with a career for life. There is a genuine skills shortage in the UK at the moment, and high-quality HVP tradespeople are constantly in high demand. You can help to fill this skills gap and give yourself a trade for life while you’re at it. 

Why JTL?
Established over 25 years ago, JTL is one of the UK’s leading apprenticeship providers. We currently train over 6,000 apprentices and work with more than 3,500 employers across England and Wales and our dedicated team of training officers, who are all former professional tradespeople themselves, will make sure that you receive a high-quality apprenticeship, supporting you from the start through to your successful completion.

At JTL we don’t use GCSE or A Level grades as a measure of acceptance or suitability to our courses: our own online entry assessment is the tool we use to establish your suitability. We also run traineeships and full-time courses in some of our centres too if you think an apprenticeship isn’t right for you now.

Visit us on or call on 0800 085 2308 to find out more.

Good luck in whichever route you choose to pursue!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia