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Choosing the right college

Advice Posted on

Choosing a college can be a pretty daunting activity. There are so many options and so many different decisions to make.

Picking the right college/ training provider can really influence your future career, therefore we want to make sure we help as much as possible.

Here at +24 we have a wide range of experience, some of us went to college, some went straight into the world of work and others went to university. Therefore we’re keen to share our experiences and help to make sure you choose the right education provider for you.

In this blog post we’ll be talking specifically about colleges/ training providers that offer Level 3 Apprenticeships, as that’s the level of course that we help to provide.

This advice is relevant to other courses as well, but it’s best that we give you a heads up!

Location

You know the classic saying; Location, Location, Location.

The saying does usually refer to buying a house, but it also applies to finding the right college/ training provider.

First things first, no one wants to have to travel for hours and hours to get to their classes, that’s not fun for anyone. It won’t be fun for you and it certainly won’t be fun for your teachers when you arrive 15 minutes late to the session, covered in sweat and traffic based excuses!

As you’ll probably know by now, on an apprenticeship course you have to be employed as 80% of your learning is meant to take place ‘on the job’. Therefore you’re likely going to want to find a job near to where you live. With this in mind, your employer is probably going to have you learning at a college not far from the office/ your own based.

Also part of the location is transport links. You’ll want to find a college/ training provider that has good bus, train, tram and road links. There might be a college/ training provider only a few miles away from you, but if your only way of getting there is to trek through a muddy field or up a massive hill, you might want to consider your options.

*(Of course, we write this with a pinch of salt now as Covid-19 has disrupted the entire planet and this might mean you find a job that allows you to work remotely. We imagine that a large amount of apprentice level jobs won’t be offering this however).

Standards

There are various standards to keep an eye out for when it comes to choosing a college/ training provider.

First of all is teaching standards. You can find these out on the Gov.uk website. Simply search for the college/ training provider and have a darn good read. These will be very helpful in the first instance, but our advice is to not just take those scores at surface level. It would also be a good idea to speak to anyone you know who went to that college/ training provider, they might have some real insights for you, that you won’t find on an official report.

Everyone can remember their favourite teacher and probably also their worst, therefore it’s daily obvious that teachers are an incredibly important element to factor in when choosing a college/ training provider.

Do they teachers care, are they dynamic, do they make lessons fun and interactive, or, are they dull, boring and read from the book?

A lot of colleges/ training providers offer Open Days, whether physically or virtually. These are a great opportunity to get to know some of the staff, see the facilities and talk to current and previous students.

Just remember the students that are around on these Open Days are more likely to be the ones with a good experience and opinion of the college/ training provider so don’t fall for their smiling faces straight away! Ask as many questions as possible and find out what all their experiences have been like.

The other standards you should be on the look out for are; Exam/ Test scores, employment rates and facilities.

Now, exams and tests certainly aren’t everything but unfortunately they can/ do currently play a big role in progression in terms of education and careerwise, therefore a college/ training provider’s test scores are relevant and important for you to pay attention to. Exam/ Test results tell you about the commitment of the students and the focus of the teaching.

Next up is the employment rates of the college/ training provider. Probably one of, if not the most important score to pay attention to. Teaching standards and exam scores pale in comparison when it comes to the importance of employment rates. If a college’s pass rate is 100% but their students’ employment rate is 20% then you might have some thinking to do.

This is a bit of a sticky point within education… Far too often training courses and education providers teach you to ‘pass’ the course, but don’t teach you about the real world of work. The connections and opportunities your college can provide you are also very important. Therefore we’d encourage you to take a good look at the employment rate of the college/ training providers you’re considering. Afterall, the whole point of higher education and an apprenticeship is to help you gain long term employment!

Courses

This is a BIG one. Hopefully by now you’ll have some kind of idea of what type of industry and job you’d like to do as this will dictate the course and apprenticeship you end up taking.

For example, if you want to get into the world of marketing/ digital marketing, you wouldn’t take a course on bricklaying, as interesting as that might be.

So, when you’re looking for a college/ training provider you want to be looking for courses relevant to your interests. Things also to consider when looking at a college/ training provider’s courses is who is teaching them, which governing boards they use and what modules are included in the course.

Again, this point goes back to the point about teaching standards, a course title might be relevant but you need to make sure that the modules they teach are right for what you want to do in your job and future.

There are colleges/ training providers that tend to specialise in specific areas and disciplines, so see if you can find a college/ training provider that is well-versed in whatever subject you’re looking to learn and go into.

Alongside that, also look at who the college/ training provider works with, do they have subcontractors who run the course, do they bring in guest speakers and experts etc etc.

At +24 Academy for example, we offer our expertise in Digital Marketing to a wide range of colleges and training providers, therefore if you’re looking for a high standard of teaching in that industry just look for any providers that we work with. 😉

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