Star student Sam Ling finished school with a raft of enviable GCSEs and A-levels.

The former head boy at Trinity School in Carlisle was a shining example of how to excel in education as he looked forward to the next stage in his life.

Having applied to Loughborough University to do mechanical engineering, his future in higher education looked set – until by chance his dad saw an advert for an apprenticeship at Northern Developments.

That snippet of information was to change the course of 18-year-old Sam’s life. He went for an interview and landed the trainee quantity surveyor job.

Sam left school with nine A-grades and two A*s at GCSE with two As, a B and a D at A-level.

“It was assumed I would go to university,” he says. “As I was growing up it was expected that I would go down that route. I always felt myself that was what I would do.

“Only two or three of my friends haven’t gone to university. For me doing the apprenticeship is the best decision ever. I have got the best of both worlds.

“My parents have backed me all the way. Their main thinking was that they wanted me to do what I would enjoy.”

Sam does one day a week at the University of Central Lancashire where he is doing a five-year quantity surveying degree.

“The other four days I am in the office or out on site.

“With it being a smaller company I get involved in a lot of different things which is interesting. One day I could be lifting manhole covers on site while on another I could be dealing with sub-contractors or taking measurements.

“I am also developing good communication skills across different areas. One day I am working with academics while the other four I am building inter-personal skills as part of the team.”