18 October 2023

Meet the Parent: Kerry Viljoen

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As a parent, you are the no. 1 influence on your kids’ early career decisions.

It is your responsibility to guide them towards the path that best fits their goals, rather than the one you expect them to follow. So whilst you may still feel that university is the ‘safest’ route to a successful career, it’s important to explore all their options.

In our Meet the Parent series, we talk to mums and dads whose children have embarked on an apprenticeship, to find out how they’ve helped them into the world of work…

Meet Kerry…

Meet Kerry. Kerry’s daughter Donay is a higher apprentice at top accountancy firm Mazars.

Donay’s decision to do an apprenticeship instead of going to university paid off, and resulted in her being nominated as an Outstanding Higher Apprentice at the RateMyApprenticeship Awards.

We spoke to Kerry to find out how she felt about her daughter choosing this career path, and whether or not the experience so far has changed her perception of apprenticeships.

1. Firstly, let’s hear a bit about you. What do you currently do? 

I’ve worked in the finance department of a construction company for the last five years, and qualified as a Certified Accountant with the AAT in December of 2017.

2. Did you go to university or straight into work? 

I grew up in South Africa and went to university for a year after leaving school. As I couldn’t afford the student loans (the interest rate was 14% at the time), I dropped out and got a job instead.

I always regretted not completing further education, so I was keen for my daughter to make the most of the amazing education system here in the UK.

3. What was your initial reaction when your daughter told you she was considering not going to university?

I was shocked to begin with because I’d always thought she would go to university, especially as it has been a lifelong ambition of mine to get a degree.

However, I did see the financial benefits of not tying yourself to a student loan for years to come. I also quickly realised that a professional qualification in tax would be just as valuable as a degree, and therefore not going to university wasn’t going to hold her chosen career back.

4. What was your opinion of apprenticeships before your child started theirs?

I have always thought they were a good idea, but I thought they were more vocational. I didn’t realise that they were available for such a wide range of professional careers, such as accountancy, law or engineering.

There was a lot of choice when it came to applying, which I thought wouldn’t be the case. 

Are you a parent? Head over to our ParentsHub, a dedicated space full of comprehensive resources to support your child.

5. Did you have any particular concerns about your child applying for an apprenticeship? 

My only concern was that she was tying herself to a job that she might not enjoy or want to do as a long-term career.

She didn’t have a clue what she was taking on, and whilst I work in a finance role, I didn’t really know enough about the apprenticeship process to guide her decision.

In the end, it’s worked out perfectly. Donay is 100% happy with her choice and is enjoying her time immensely as an apprentice.

6. Has your opinion of apprenticeships changed since your daughter started theirs? If so, how? 

I was initially concerned about my 18-year-old girl finding her feet in a big corporate office. However, I have been blown away by the support that she has been given by her colleagues, both professionally and personally.  

I am very proud of her work ethic too. She has held her own in the workplace and been regularly commended on her maturity and willingness to learn.

Some youngsters would give up and walk away from an apprenticeship when the work/study balance got difficult, but she has stuck with it and given it her all.

So yes, I was apprehensive at first, but this has been an incredible opportunity for Donay. We’re both really excited to see what the future brings.

7. Would you recommend apprenticeships to other parents?

I absolutely would recommend apprenticeships to other parents – what an incredible opportunity for your child to qualify in a profession without being weighed down by huge student debt.

Plus, at 21, my daughter is almost a fully qualified Chartered Tax Advisor, whilst most of her friends have only just finished their degrees. 

8. Finally, what advice would you give to any parents who are just starting their apprenticeship journey?

Don’t be sceptical about the process, apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity and if your child really runs with it, it might be the best decision they ever make.

Apprenticeships can be tricky things to get your head round. Especially because they’ve changed so much since you were a wee one.