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Parent to Parent Blogs: Alternative routes into higher education


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I am a parent of two daughters. One decided to go to university and one has gained qualifications through an apprenticeship so I hope my experience will give a balanced view.

Supporting your child through the process of searching and applying for an apprenticeship can be a challenge. I feel that communication and having an open conversation about all the options for further education and training is crucial to finding the right choice for your young person.

Once the decision to go ahead with searching for an apprenticeship has been made, choosing an area of work that is of interest to them will be important. This could be related to the subjects they took at sixth form and also an area of work or life they feel passionate about. There may not be an apprenticeship that will be a perfect fit, but something in the general area may be a stepping stone in the right direction. This may then open up a world of opportunities and career paths they would not even be aware of.

This is what happened to my daughter. She really didn’t know what she wanted to do as a career so took a general business administration apprenticeship at a lower level, that then led on to an opportunity to study for a level 4 diploma in conveyancing  law and practice. She completed this in 2 years and this led on to the level 6 qualification. She has since decided to change career paths and now works for Apprenticeships Suffolk helping other young people to find suitable apprenticeships.

This, in my opinion, is the most important advantage to working while gaining a qualification. The experience will give your child a sense of independence and confidence. Having work experience and knowledge of industry and businesses gives a huge advantage in getting further job opportunities and advancing in a career. Working alongside experienced colleagues who can be valuable mentors throughout the process, and learning and applying academic knowledge to the workplace also gives experiences to draw on while studying.  

An advantage of an apprenticeship is the employer will pay for training as you earn. If the course is a degree apprenticeship the pay will be reasonably good depending on the company and career you choose. My advice would be to help your child look carefully at the contract offered and ensure they understand what is expected of them. A disadvantage may be transitioning to work from school may be a challenge with working hours being longer and no luxury of long school holidays!

Another challenge is finding a suitable apprenticeship. They may not be available locally due to the level of apprenticeship. There may be more opportunities in cities or larger towns and your child may have to consider moving away. Some courses have day release, some are in house training and some offer block study times.

When researching degree apprenticeships there are many websites to visit, here are some websites I believe are worth looking at:

UCAS> apprenticeships

GOV.UK >apprenticeships

Another option could be to look at companies directly and see what they offer, maybe even research the best companies to work for that provide a good work/life balance, quality training and opportunities for progression.

I would also advise helping your child through the application process and also check the training provider has a reputation for providing sufficient support. Ensure the course will result in respected/recognised qualifications.

It doesn’t harm to explore the options available. Keep an open mind and encourage your son or daughter to apply. All apprenticeships are worthwhile and will lead to many exciting opportunities in the future.

Sue, Parent Ambassador

To see more from Sue and the Parent Ambassadors head over to the HE Family Zone on Facebook. If you have any questions you can email:

You can find more information about apprenticeships at the University of Suffolk here. You can do apprenticeships in everything from Nursing to Network Engineering. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships at the University of Suffolk offer both employers and apprentices the best of both worlds - combining work and education to develop skilled and academically confident apprentices. The University is working closely with employers in the development of apprenticeships at levels 4-7 to meet the needs to employers across Suffolk and beyond.

You can also listen to some podcasts about Apprenticeships here.





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