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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

University Vs. Apprenticeships

Being a university student based overseas (outside of Nigeria), I have always been interested in making comparisons between teaching methods here and back home - not to mention several other places too.

Recently I have been thinking about the routes available to people to study or work towards becoming an architect. Today, I'm comparing the university route to the apprenticeship route. (I am aware that the apprenticeship route in Nigeria, may lead a student to an ideal job, but may never provide any formal recognition in terms of a certified job title).

Of course there are important considerations to be made, for example; does the route actually result in a validated title i.e. Architect, or does it simply allow one to acquire the skills necessary to design good buildings e.g. a Design coordinator or project manager?

The benefits of university education is that:

- You work in the company of your peers, you can compare and contrast your progress and learn from tutors who have acquired several years or even decades of experience.

- You graduate with a non-disputable qualification which certifies your achievements.

- You are given guidance in the form of tutorials, libraries, lectures which if utilised could help you significantly on deciding options post-university.

Whilst the benefits of a university education are tempting, they come at a price, which many may not be able to afford. This means that tuition fees risk narrowing down the talent pool, to only 'rich kids' who can afford to study for such a duration.

The lack of tuition fee is one of the major benefits of working as an apprentice however this route is without its own difficulties.

Benefits include:

- Though funding is still required, it could probably work out more favourable for the student as there is more control as to what is learnt i.e. you take up an apprenticeship with a company you actually want to work with, with a design team you actually want to emulate in future.

- In the bigger picture of things, working as an apprentice provides the apprentice better career prospects, as you are working whilst learning, thus gaining experiencing at the same time whilst gaining education. University students gain mostly education, then graduate 6 years later to start gaining experience, competing with experienced fellows is a difficult challenge and if the apprentice acquired networks whilst 'studying' they may seem a more favourable candidate to a university student who has no networks.

- An apprenticeship means that it is possible for the apprentice to view things as they would happen in real life, whilst university students are usually studying the theory of things, and sometimes things which may turn out to be non-important in practice.

Ultimately, what I am discussing here is the old debate of which is better to be streetsmart (apprentice) or to be booksmart (university students).

This is a decision which I believe depends on the individual, some students would benefit from learning theory before attempting to actually work within the industry, whilst others may have previous knowledge and may simply be wasting funds and time in the lecture hall.

Now, I am not discrediting the value of university studies, I am merely stating from my own experience as a university student that perhaps if I had chosen to study as an apprentice I may have better job prospects. I can only speculate as to what would have happened.

I open up the debate for you, to discuss and consider yourself, many high school leavers aren't told about the options outside of university. Here is your chance to reconsider and decide for yourself, what your choice will be.

Stay tuned for the negatives of both which I will be discussing in a future post.

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