Our teenagers have spent their school days being told that university is really the only choice for anyone who wants ‘a good job’ and, unsurprisingly, it’s proving difficult to dispel this. Parents, likewise, remember their own pathway and many will similarly extol the idea that ‘university is the only way’.
It’s absolutely true that, at present, many jobs are only open to graduates but we have all become victims of our own success if we look closely at the percentage of young people who now go to university. Its now about 50% which is what Blair declared he wanted back in ’97. In the early ’80s it was 17% so it’s not hard to see that there are a lot more graduates around. The quality of graduate jobs and salaries on offer have not kept pace and many ‘graduate jobs’ now are the sort which were previously on offer to A level students.
So, where does this leave an 18 year old and how on earth do they decide what to do?
Well, they are lucky! There are more genuine options open to them than for many years. A university education is, of course, a necessity for some career paths (medicine, dentistry, teaching, architecture, vet science and some engineering) and a very worthwhile experience for many but I see too many young people committing to courses which they don’t enjoy and still leave them unprepared for the world beyond. The main problem with the options is the vocabulary; the word apprenticeship still has connotations of manual work and the choice for those who ‘aren’t academic’. We now have Higher Apprenticeships, School Leaver Programmes and importantly, Degree Apprenticeships – they are similar in structure and are open to those who have a level 3 qualification i.e. A levels or a Btec. There are some incredible opportunities out there which really should be considered. There are some sectors which are much better provided for than others and these include Finance especially Accountancy, Banking, Risk Insurance, Engineering, Media including broadcasting and advertising, Fashion, some areas of Law and Business and Management.
Many of the programmes include a fully-funded degree which participants study in a variety of ways – day release or block study. Many pay very well from day 1 – £20,000 + with all company benefits at 18 years old with zero tuition costs.
It is quicker and easier to make a university application so a student needs to show tenacity and commitment but the rewards are high.
We now have some forward-thinking companies such as EY who are offering deferred programme places so that young people can still enjoy a gap year in the secure knowledge of knowing what they are returning to.
Many opportunities are listed via www.apprenticeships.org.uk and Which? offers really good information Higher_and_degree_apprenticeships_-_NAS___Which_Uni_-_Web.pdf