Sophie’s Career Pathway.

Throughout my years in the education system I encountered numerous obstacles, which have led me to where I am today. Between years 2011-2016 I attended my local secondary school, where I gained my GCSE qualifications. The school were a credible academy, specialising in Business and Enterprise, with ‘the majority of students opting to continue their studies into the Sixth Form’. In Year 11 I assessed the options available for school leavers, with my desired career path in mind and researched a number of further education outlets, along with my current school where I had formed established relationships and were known for a reputable business department. This led to various meetings with the sixth form leader and careers staff, however on numerous occasions, once expressing interest elsewhere was informed that this ‘wasn’t the right career path’ for me to follow in order to reach my full potential and avoid ‘underselling’ myself for a route which I was ‘bound to regret two months down the line’.

After this somewhat forceful advice I decided that the most suitable pathway for me would be to further my studies at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy (PJEA), based at The Sheffield College, in the heart of the city. The academy opened up many opportunities in terms of networking with businesses and overseeing the operation of many small organisations; an element which a more academic route were unable to provide. The networking experiences which surround being educated in a major city allowed me to be in close connection with Sheffield Hallam University.

In my final year with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy I spoke with my tutor mentor, a staff member within The Sheffield College, about my progression into higher education. Again, there was a clear driving force behind the traditional route of university, with familiar phrases including ‘underselling yourself’ and ‘you’ll regret being committed to a job when all your friends are at university’. When speaking to peers who chose the more traditional route for further and higher education, similar statements were expressed such as ‘I need A Levels to go to University’, ‘I’ve never been informed of opportunities outside of A Levels’ and ‘I’ve never heard of a higher or degree apprenticeship’.

After being influenced to apply for university on a full time basis I attended a number of university open days and applied for a handful of university courses through UCAS, taking advantage of the information available surrounding the full time university pathway. Throughout the whole process I was advised heavily to apply for full time university courses and use the degree apprenticeship scheme as my back up plan. I approached my tutor mentor on various different occasions regarding higher and degree apprenticeships, to later be informed of an apprenticeship careers fair at Sheffield Hallam University. When attending the event I discovered Gaia Innovation Ltd, along with Operations Director- Nicola Thompson.

Gaia Innovation were the answers to my prayers! The team stood out on an exceptional level in comparison to the other representatives with the level of engagement provided to students with no knowledge on the degree apprenticeships scheme. The guidance and support provided by Gaia Innovation is inspirational and my career pathway may have mapped out to entirely different extremes, due to the lack of support and information I received surrounding the less traditional routes.

As a student who faces difficulty when concentrating for long periods of time, I therefore lack enthusiasm when contained within a certain structure for prolonged periods of time and learning through teacher-centred delivery, as done through school. I have never been a ‘traditional’ learner, however through progression I have learned to adapt to alternative learning styles, whilst aiming to get the best out of myself as an individual. The degree apprenticeship route is by far the most appropriate method of higher education for myself; I am faced with new challenges daily and work within a team who continuously seek new mountains to climb. My journey to becoming a Degree Apprentice Events Manager with Gaia Innovation, was nothing short of a mountain itself; but through breaking down barriers, challenging the norm and sheer good luck I have ended up in a place I could only have imagined this time last year. I cannot wait for what the future holds for Gaia and the youngsters we inspire along the way.