There has been much recent discussion in the media as to whether the “graduate premium” obtained from gaining a degree justifies the cost of student loans. There’s a serious point in this, that, as the proportion of people taking degrees increases, the advantage it will give them over the rest of the population is inevitably going to diminish.
It seems that, unless you take a degree in one of the intellectually demanding STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), or in one such as law and medicine that leads to a learned profession, a degree as such is not going to enhance your life prospects anywhere near as much as it once did. I did an arts degree in the 1970s which opened the door to a professional accountancy career, but if I was in the same position now I’d undoubtedly choose a different subject.
In response to this, there have been several recommendations that ambitious young people who can’t quite get on the top-level degree courses should consider apprenticeship schemes offered by major employers. One significant advantage of this is that you start earning immediately and don’t end up with student debt around your neck.
The hospitality industry has long had a reputation for low wages and lack of career development, but some of the major players have now joined in and started apprenticeship schemes of their own. There’s plenty of opportunity for advancement and, while wet-led pubs may be struggling, the trade as a whole, including hotels and restaurants, is in robust health and isn’t going to disappear any day soon.
So, if you’re considering doing a media studies degree at a former Polytechnic, taking out an apprenticeship in the hospitality trade may well prove to be a much better long-term career bet, not to mention leaving you free from student debt. But it will bring forward the evil day when you are actually expected to do some hard work.
Incidentally, there’s a well known pub in Isleworth called the London Apprentice. There used to be one of the same name in Shrewsbury – maybe implying someone who had run away to join a trade – but it was later renamed the Severn Apprentice and has now been demolished.