So, you’ve just got your A-level results, but what now? With a record 32.6% of 18-year olds going into higher education (UCAS, 2017), it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that University is the only option, but this route is not for everyone. Ryan Etchells shares his experiences as an apprentice with LIFT-Financial.
The price of higher education is generally the main consideration behind why young people look for alternatives to going to University. Currently (2019), University fees can set you back £9,250 per annum, making tuition fees in England some of the highest in the world (Independent, 2017). Not forgetting the Maintenance Loan that many need to take out in order to pay for the basic cost of living; such as rent, which is calculated based on household income.
Graduates will start to repay this once they are earning in excess of £25,725 a year and they will pay a huge 9% of their earnings above this threshold. For example, if you’re earning £30,000 per annum, you would pay £384.75 each year (£32.06 per month). In addition to this, interest is added to the loans both whilst you are studying and after you graduate, making it much more difficult to repay the debt. As a result of this, only 17% of students are forecast to actually pay back their loan in full (Institute of Fiscal Studies) before the loan is wiped after 30 years.
With all of this in mind, we chatted with Ryan Etchells (Client Support Administrator) on why he opted for an apprenticeship with LIFT over University.
Why did you choose to take an apprenticeship over going to University?
As is the case for many, probably the main consideration when it comes to making the choice between an apprenticeship and going to University was cost. With an apprenticeship, I wouldn’t accumulate any student debt and my qualifications would be paid for me by LIFT-Financial. Not to mention the fact that I am able to earn and learn!
Secondly, I would consider myself to be quite an ambitious individual and the opportunity to progress quickly in a Chartered environment was important to me.
Thirdly, a good friend of mine was already working at LIFT and he spoke very highly of the support he was receiving.
What made you want to work in the Financial Planning industry?
The main factor was that I liked the idea of working in ‘professional services’ and loved the idea of being able to help people to achieve their financial goals.
What is your overall goal?
My overall goal is to obtain Fellowship status under the Personal Finance Society and to then become a fully-fledged Financial Planner, by which point I will have completed 19 exams and over 5 years of industry experience.
Achieving Fellowship status is imperative as it shows clients that I am dependable and allows me to operate with confidence.
What has your journey been like so far?
I joined LIFT in August 2016. I was 19, fresh out of college and lacking in experience, knowledge and confidence, but this has all changed tremendously!
I have moved around the company a lot in the past three years, starting out as a Technical Support Apprentice and then becoming an administrator to the Servicing Team. I then spent some time in the Group Team before landing where I am now, in Client Support.
So, you’ve been kept busy! What was it like moving around the business?
Moving from team to team has helped me so much in many respects. It has furthered my knowledge of the Financial Planning process and the services LIFT offer. It has also allowed me to gain invaluable, hands-on experience in different departments which in turn has helped me to improve my product knowledge. Finally, I have been able to see first-hand how all the teams are interlinked to provide the best service possible to our clients.
Are there any negatives you have found being an apprentice?
Starting out as an apprentice the salary isn't high; however, the opportunity to progress far outweighs the initial salary (not to mention the bonus of having no student debt!).
Secondly, studying and working full-time is a lot of pressure and responsibility, so I wouldn’t go down this route if you’re not prepared to work hard.
What was it like being a part of the LIFT-Academy?
I joined the LIFT-Academy programme in May 2018, when it was rebranded from the Graduate Scheme, enabling it to be more inclusive.
During my time here, I’ve passed 11 exams and completed numerous qualifications, one of which being the CII Diploma in Financial Planning. Having the right mentors and financial support has boosted my success when it comes to passing exams.
I am confident that in time, I will progress on to Fellowship status and beyond!
How has LIFT helped you so far?
As I mentioned before, they have supported me financially through my exams and have also offered a paid bonus for each exam I passed. They provide study days too which have proved to be very beneficial.
Outside of my studies, they have allowed me to go to client meetings with the adviser and take meeting notes so that I can see the planning process from start to finish as opposed to just seeing the back-office element. This has helped to teach me how to interact properly with clients.