National Apprenticeship Week 2024: Navigating alternative routes to fulfilling STEM careers

05 February 2024

This week (February 5 to 11) marks National Apprenticeship Week, a time for the education and skills sector to come together and celebrate the achievements of apprentices across the UK and the impact they have on communities, industry, and the wider economy.

However, it is also an apt time to reflect on some of the misconceptions around apprenticeships, and how we can reframe the way we talk about further education and professional development (both at school-leaver age and beyond).

Transitioning from social sciences to tech: my apprenticeship journey

It's been seven months since I started my marketing apprenticeship here at STEM Learning, but over a year since I graduated with a master's degree in politics. Reflecting on this time, I always knew I wanted to do something creative after graduating, but never thought a career in the STEM industry was open to me.

Perhaps this was out of a conception that all roles within the digital and technological space required a robust and well-evidenced understanding and background in STEM from a young age. However, this was not the case!

It was only until joining National Centre for Computing Education programme as a Trainee Marketing and Communications Officer that I realised that being a creative in a tech-facing role was possible. It became evident that individuals from diverse academic backgrounds can pursue this pathway, contributing something unique and valuable to the field.

I soon discovered the diverse nature of the industry, which now requires proficiency in digital skills and an awareness of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI). Coming from a non-STEM background with a different academic focus, I hadn't anticipated having the chance to develop these skill sets after graduating from university. However, my apprenticeship has taught me that technology and digital skills are core for everybody to build upon—regardless of age, gender, industry, or otherwise—and that it is never too late to embark on a new pathway.

Apprenticeships as routes to fulfilling STEM careers

Scrolling through apprenticeship opportunities on the Careermap page only serves to highlight how varied opportunities can be for those considering a role in technology. From apprenticeships in digital and technology at consultancy giants, to roles in cyber security, energy, engineering, creative, and banking, I was amazed to realise how vast the apprenticeship offer is.

To gain a more in depth overview of how beneficial apprenticeships are for both students and industry, I spoke with Séverine Trouillet, CEO at STEM Learning.

“Apprenticeships are key because students can learn on the job and learn from people. When you talk to employers and companies, what they need is people who are work ready”.

Amidst the emergence of AI and the pressing challenges posed by climate change, she tells me of the growing importance of digital skills in tackling these issues. This highlights a changing job landscape where a combination of digital proficiency and inventive problem-solving is essential for addressing societal challenges, cementing the idea that those with more creative skill sets need not feel excluded from STEM fields.

How you can introduce alternative routes to STEM careers in your classroom

Why not harness the momentum brought about by this shift in the job market? Consider how you can introduce alternative routes to STEM subjects in your classroom going forward. There are a number of ways that you can get involved!

For instance, National Apprenticeship Week provide resources specifically for schools, teachers, and students to get involved with the initiative and learn more about the opportunities that they can look at heading into further education.

Further, Isaac Computer Science are running an 'Alternatives to traditional university degrees' event on February 20, open to both students and teachers. Here, you'll get an overview of the many career options open to your students, and how you can champion them going forward.

How will you be taking part?

About the author

Ruby Brown is a Trainee Marketing and Communications Officer at STEM Learning, working on the National Centre for Computing Education programme.