Bekah Leonard works for Uni’s Not For Me, a website dedicated to providing advice for people who have chosen an alternative to going to university and doing a degree. We asked her to tell us a bit about her own journey and what led her to her position as a journalism apprentice.
This is just the start of a regular slot where Bekah will share her insight into life outside of the university set and offer up advice for anyone thinking about doing something different...
After GCSEs, I don’t really remember having a choice in what to do next. A Levels were just a natural progression I got swept into because that’s what everyone else was doing. It wasn’t until my second year at college that it occurred to me how much I disliked A Levels and everything that came with it. I’ve always been quite academically smart, enough to get respectable grades and get into a good university if I wanted to, but I didn’t do myself justice in the final exams. With absolutely no motivation to revise, I just scraped through my second year and left with grades lower than what was expected of me.
UCAS forms were pushed on a daily basis at college and although I did apply and received offers to study writing, I knew that I secretly had no intention whatsoever to go. I began looking at other options as I wanted to have a solid plan before I broke the news to my Mum and Dad that I wasn’t going to be moving to university in a few months.
That’s when I discovered apprenticeships, specifically ones in journalism. At this point, I was still getting my head around the fact that apprenticeships existed in more areas than just manual labour. When I saw Uni’s Not For Me were looking for a journalism apprentice, I jumped at the opportunity. UNFM is a company dedicated to informing young people about all their options after school, and they needed someone to take over their blog. This was perfect for me, especially seeing as it was writing about a subject I had recently become very passionate about.
A year later, I’m fully informed about all the different ways someone can enter their chosen career and spend my days writing articles like this one, to share my new found knowledge.
The Uni’s Not For Me story
Uni’s Not For Me was set up by Hattie Wrixon, who left school at just 17 years old, and realised there was a lack of information on alternatives to university. After completing a secretarial course and trying out a few different jobs, Hattie co-founded the UNFM website and turned it into her full time career. Since then, we have teamed up with a number of organisations, such as Virgin Media, British Gas and Hotcourses, to help spread the word on alternative ambitions.
As a team of young people who didn’t go to uni, we understand what it’s like to go through the pressures of school and college. As well as informing you about all your school leaver options, we are also creating a community of school leavers who can support each other in the decision to pursue a career without a degree. A large part of university is the social aspect, living in halls and the infamous night life that comes with studying for a degree. We know that missing out on this is a big worry for many school leavers, which is why we’re organising social events where apprentices, interns, school leavers and entrepreneurs can meet and socialise. And of course drink. Responsibly.
We are very passionate about changing the way careers advice is offered in schools. Though we stress that we are in no way anti-university, we believe that it is important to tell students about every option so that they can make an informed decision. To encourage schools to start actively doing this, we’ve launched a new magazine, Alternative Ambitions.
Schools across the country are subscribing to our e-magazine, full of advice and information for both students and teachers. Each edition contains blogs, case studies, success stories, and opportunities from top employers with school leaver schemes. We’ve partnered with a number of different companies, including Training and Courses, to offer students and teachers all the information about all the resources available post 16.
As well as informative blogs full of advice for those unsure about leaving university – our website also includes Success Stories. We talk to individuals who have become incredibly successful without going to university, and ask them what advice they would give to young people looking to get into a similar field without a degree. The aim of these interviews is to inspire young people to investigate an alternative way into their career, and to give them the courage to say Uni’s Not For Me.
As a company, we firmly believe in apprenticeships, distance learning, internships, work experience, and online courses. Independent learning requires plenty of motivation and hard work, but if you’re willing to put in the effort all the resources are readily available to you! We’re thrilled to be partnered with Training and Courses, and I look forward to providing you with more opportunities and information in the future about the alternatives to university.