From education to employment

Reflecting on A-Level results: How to navigate the route ahead

David Allison

Every year, results day brings such a mix of emotions for those receiving their results, as well as parents, teachers, schools and colleges. This year was no different. If anything, the challenges of Covid have made it even more difficult to understand the options which are open to young people as they choose their next steps.

Based on the wide range of companies, Apprenticeship providers, Universities and FE colleges we work with, here are our top tips for anyone who has just received their results, as well as parents and teachers supporting them.

1. It’s your choice!

To begin with, recognise that it is your choice. There is still a lot of pressure from within the education system – and some parents – to follow particular routes. For many, University is seen as being the next step which you should aspire to. The first step in making a good decision is to recognise that it is just that – your decision, so make sure you know what you want.

2. But University is best right?

There is lots of evidence that suggests that University is definitely not the best next step for everyone. If you aren’t sure, simply look up the number of graduates entering non-graduate jobs every year. One of the challenges here is finding good, non-biased, analysis. If in doubt, go to government sites such as the Office for National Statistics. Analysis from 2019 shows that over 45% of all recent graduates were working in non-graduate roles. University is a great choice for many people, and for some careers it’s the only way in. But that doesn’t make it the best choice for everyone. And of course, there’s student debt to be considered. Student debt is still a relatively recent thing; many parents and teachers will not have experienced the current system first-hand. Average debt of £45,000 at the end of the course is now expected (according to parliament) and that’s before you start paying interest, so this is now something that really needs to be considered as part of the University choice.

Then you have the choice of which University or course to accept. Be under no illusion that Universities are financially incentivised to take as many students as they can, so your job is to get onto the best course at the best University.

3. So it’s University or an Apprenticeship then?

This is one of the most common misconceptions we come across. It’s a question which is fundamentally wrong! Firstly, there is no pressure to do either one of these if they aren’t right for you. If you don’t know what to do, then taking some time out – getting a job or travelling – is also an option. Secondly, with the increased popularity of Degree Apprenticeships, you can gain both a Degree and an Apprenticeship.  And you can do it without running up any student debt whilst earning money.

This is such a great option that it is growing in popularity – so most companies have already made their job offers for September this year. If you’d like to follow this approach you’ll need to research which companies offer Degree Apprenticeships, and can help you do that. If you register with us, we’ll also let you know when new opportunities become available.

4. But I just don’t know what to do…

If you really don’t know where to start, then again, don’t feel pressurised into making a quick decision. The world of work is changing quickly, with all sorts of new careers appearing all the time. What is likely is that in the next 10 years, the traditional ‘safe’ occupations such as accountancy and law are going to change – with a reduced need for entry level roles – as automation and AI start to complement the activity of people. Other areas – often called Hi-Tech and Hi-Touch – are forecast to grow as people either learn new skills to help manage automation, or are employed in careers which can’t be replaced by automation or bots. One of our favourite reports on this area is by Nesta. It’s a pretty comprehensive report, but the summary charts on page 44 which show the forecast growth in jobs in education, care and engineering as well as a reduction in areas such as traditional production, low level accountancy and financial roles makes thought provoking reading. With career opportunities in digital rapidly rising across all industries, sites like the Microsoft Apprenticeship Connector are certainly worth looking at.

Being prepared to admit you don’t know is a really positive thing. It allows you to back and ask yourself questions about what you really want – what you enjoy, and where you want to spend your time. If you’re still searching for inspiration then browsing through jobs sites and reading reviews can really help.

On the GetMyFirstJob site we’ve pulled together a range of tools to help you;

  • What’s Next explains all of the different options to help give you insights into everything from apprenticeships to gap years and university.
  • Occupations sets out hundreds of different careers you might want to follow and provides information about jobs, salaries and how to get started
  • Search allows you to search nearly 10,000 opportunities all around the country from internships to Degree apprenticeships and graduate programmes.

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