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School’s out – what next?

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August saw its annual batch of thousands of nervous teens across the UK receive their GCSE and A-Level results. Some will have exceeded expectations, some not, but as Jeremy Clarkson annually points out on results day, grades aren’t everything: “I got a C and 2 Us, and my chef is preparing truffles for breakfast.” Regardless of the grades themselves having some impact on the “what’s next?” question, all students have exciting options ahead of them.

For those who have taken GCSE’s, the typical next move is to stay in education to do A-Levels, with a view to it being the best route to university. Perhaps not surprising to hear, with research conducted this summer by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) finding that schools are much more likely to talk to students about university over other options, even pressuring them into choosing the more traditional route into higher education. The Chief Executive of the AAT, which offers excellent alternatives in the form of vocational courses, believes that schools need to play their part in raising the awareness of the options open to GCSE students, such as apprenticeships and other similar qualifications.

Apprenticeship schemes, traineeships and BTECs are all viable routes for those who wish to increase their employability and at the same time avoid costly university tuition fees. The AAT are firm believers that such courses and schemes provide important hands-on experience and skill-set training at any stage of your career, either after GCSE or A-Level results. Degree apprenticeships are an option for those who have completed A-Levels but are struggling with the dilemma of student debt versus earning a salary. Apprentices on these courses typically have their tuition fees paid for by the employer and the government so that they can earn while they learn, all the way to a full university degree.

Some students are put off taking a vocational training route when they haven’t decided what they want to do for a living. However, starting off in one direction doesn’t mean it must dictate which sector you work in for the rest of your career. The government’s recent “skills revolution” saw an overhaul of its approach to vocational training and apprenticeships, making them applicable to a number of different business sectors, leaving sideways and industry moves wide open for qualified students. There is also a misconception that the best employers don’t offer apprenticeship schemes, but PWC, Unilever, JP Morgan, Capgemini and Siemens are all fine representatives on anyone’s list of potential first employers!