Apprenticeships: a debt-free alternative to university

This is an article by Jessica Kirby.
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Higher Apprentice of the Year Jessica Kirby

It’s been just over a year since the UK’s first PR apprenticeship was thrust into action after receiving a positive response from the industry.

Talent flow has been a recurring discussion within the PR industry, making the apprenticeship seem the natural progression.

Giving young people the opportunity to enter a competitive industry like public relations has proved extremely successful.

My apprenticeship has not only provided me with a nationally recognised qualification (a Level 4 Diploma equivalent to a foundation degree) but it has also given me the chance to develop an entire new skill set.

There is a common misconception that apprenticeships are easy but that is genuinely not the case.

I would like for apprenticeships to be considered as an alternative further education path instead of university but I know that will take time for people to see the results and begin to trust their value.

Full Cirkle

During my year at Cirkle, I have been given the opportunity to complete tasks I would never have dreamed of whilst at school. I have helped to organise events for global brands and liaise with the clients.

I have also written press releases for products that I have in my cupboards at home which have achieved national coverage – which is initially quite surreal for someone who has just completed their last year in school. The team at Cirkle have been phenomenal and throughout the apprenticeship nearly all of my knowledge has come from their expertise.

The scheme has been very well conducted by the PRCA and has covered all the aspects that a junior PR practitioner would need in order to succeed and progress. From offering their webinars to giving complimentary tickets to their industry conferences – the opportunities have been endless. We apprentices have been exposed to top industry professionals and given access to their knowledge and advice which is something that university students would struggle to find.

Not only have I been fortunate enough to attend these events but through the scheme I was also given the opportunity to organise an event with the other apprentices to promote the scheme to potential employers. It was great to have the kind of responsibility – especially two months into the apprenticeship.

Higher Apprentice of the Year

Being in an agency environment 24/7 has given me a more thorough understanding of work is like within the PR industry. From speaking to colleagues and other young PR professionals, I hear a resounding message that I should seriously appreciate the apprenticeship and what it has enabled me to do now and in the future.

As a 20 year old, it is particularly impressive to be able to write on my CV that I have gained a year of experience working as a full-time employee in an agency and secured a job role as a Junior Account Executive – a position that a graduate would normally take.

I would highly recommend a PR apprenticeship to young people who want to try and get into the industry without having to accumulate debt from university.

Earlier in November I won Higher Apprentice of the Year which has given me the perfect platform to promote apprenticeships. I will endeavour to reach more young people and tell them of the benefits of completing an apprenticeship alongside showing businesses the positive outcome from offering apprenticeships.

If you are interested in finding out more about the PR apprenticeship then visit


  1. Congratulations to Jessica for achieving her qualification. Higher Apprenticeships are a great and valuable alternative pathway to achieving higher level qualifications. However, a level 4 diploma is NOT equivalent to a Foundation Degree and young people should not be mislead in to believing it is. A Foundation Degree is a level 5 qualification of 240 HE credits (120 at L4 and 120 at L5). A Foundation Degree can be a springboard to an Honours Degree through an appropriate top up of an additional 120 credits at Level 6.

  2. Thank you for the clarification, Peter.

    Education at all levels should meet two requirements.

    One is transactional and short-term: does it help you do the job better, or pass the exam more easily.

    The other is developmental and long-term: does it have the potential to lead on to better things in future?

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