For many students undertaking GCSE and A-level exams and embarking on the long wait for results, the month of June can bring about a great deal of stress and anxiety.
As the cost of going to university continues to rise, the commitment to a further three or four years of book learning can seem daunting and simply may not be the right next step for those who are ready for something new.
That was the case for two young people who have embarked on apprenticeships with the Galgorm Resort & Spa and Northern Regional College.
This time a year ago, 19-year-old Emmalee O’Connell, from Ballyclare, was on the path to study forensic science at university. However, at the last minute she re-assessed her career options – a decision which she hasn’t regretted.
Teachers warned her she was “wasting her intelligence” by not going to university, but Emmalee knew that it wasn’t for her.
“I realised I really didn’t want to study forensic science and that, actually, I didn’t want to go to university at all, so I started looking into apprenticeships,” she explained.
Emmalee had assumed that she would only be able to get an apprenticeship in engineering or a similar trade, so when she stumbled upon the hospitality apprenticeship offered by Northern Regional College and the Galgorm, she jumped at the chance to enter a field she knew she would like and she hasn’t looked back since:
“I couldn’t recommend an apprenticeship like this more,” she continued. “Everyone has been so encouraging and supportive and it’s a great environment to work in. Then there’s the added incentive of earning while you learn, instead of racking up astronomical student debts.”
Her colleague, Jennifer Perez, a 25-year-old Spanish-native who has a Master’s degree in Nutrition agrees. She sees the apprenticeship programme as a “wonderful opportunity” to learn as much as possible about the industry and to get the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in hospitality.
“The apprenticeship allows you to not only earn while you study, but also to really understand what the sector is like – that means you don’t waste time, energy and money on a degree and then realise you actually don’t want to pursue it as a career,” Jennifer said.
“At the Galgorm you’re learning, not just industry practice, but gold-standard industry practice. You’re getting a qualification and you’re also getting a wealth of experience. Moreover, this is your foot in the door – you’re not coming out of university, and thinking ‘what now?’ It’s a natural progression into a career. I think it’s a no-brainer.”