Over half of young people say on-the-job experience more valuable than a degree
As young people across the country prepare to find out their A Level results after a nervous wait, a new survey published by AAT (@YourAAT) shows that it is not necessarily an A, B or C that will help to build a career.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults1 revealed that over half (56%) of people do not think a degree is worth the investment. 62% of those surveyed also believed that three or more years of on-the-job experience was more valuable that going to university, including 57% of 16-24-year-olds.
Rachel Staples, Head of Qualifications and Product Development, AAT, said:
“Congratulations to all those receiving A Level results today – whatever your grades are, you should be very proud of your achievements. Whilst for many young people university may be the best route into their future careers, others may feel that it isn’t the right fit for them or are unsure what to do next – especially in these uncertain times with the impact on the ‘typical’ university experience. Today’s survey results show that people are increasingly recognising the value of on-the-job training and how this can kickstart a successful career. We would encourage young people who are unsure about going to university to consider alternatives, such as an apprenticeship with the option to earn while you learn or studying a further vocational qualification
As well as choosing to go directly into the world of work, amid the uncertainty of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many young people may also be considering starting their own business as an alternative to university. Since February 2020, 18,000 small businesses have been started by members of Generation Z, and the number of 16-20-year-olds setting up as sole traders has increased by 72% since February 20202.
However, something that most people can agree on is that for a business to succeed, knowing your numbers is critical. In fact, 89% of those surveyed said this was important to running a successful business, including 86% of 16-24-year-olds.
Rachel Staples added:
“As we know from TV programmes like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice, sound financial knowledge, including understanding cash flow, profit and loss is key to running a successful business. AAT offers a range of qualifications which can support people of all ages to gain and develop this knowledge which is essential not only to drive forward a career in finance, but also for a solid grounding for those looking to set up their own business. Many of our students have gone on to start their own business, as well as achieving successful careers working in a variety of industries. Studying with AAT can be done alongside working – giving students an opportunity to earn whilst they learn valuable skills that will support their future ambitions.”
One person who understand the importance of knowing your numbers is Carina Lepore, winner of the 15th series of The Apprentice and the most successful candidate in the show’s history. Carina started her first business after leaving school at 18 and now runs a successful bakery business Dough Artisan Bakehouse with two sites in London.
Carina Lepore said:
“Over my career I’ve learnt that good accounting is crucial to business survival. I’ve been lucky to have the support of a great team to help me with this, which has enabled me to grow and develop my business – including during the pandemic. However, studying a vocational qualification, such as those offered by AAT, would also have helped me a lot by giving me that sound financial knowledge. I’d encourage any young person who’s deciding what to do after school and thinking of starting their own business to consider studying for an AAT qualification – it could give you a huge boost for your future career.”
For Rachel Martin from Buckinghamshire, her AAT journey began when she finished her A Levels in 2014.
“I was undergoing a Business Administration apprenticeship within the finance department of my local council at the time,” Rachel explains. “I started at Level 2 and then worked my way up through Levels 3 and 4 before passing my final exams in March 2019.”
And her AAT qualifications have stood Rachel in good stead, supporting her application to study an Executive MBA at Cranfield University.
“Without an undergraduate degree behind me, my AAT qualifications underpinned my application to Cranfield and were key to it being successful. I’ve now worked my way up to completing a Level 7 senior leader apprenticeship as part of my Executive MBA.”
Rachel has also set up her own business, AccountantShe, which currently has 310 clients from industries including plumbing, building, hairdressing, software development and social media influencers.
“We’re definitely not your average accountants!” she says. “I have a huge passion for finance and people’s business which is why I wanted to set up a company of my own. It’s been great to put all my passion into the business and pass it on to our clients, and to engage with them with such energy. When you’re working with business owners it’s nice that they know you understand their situation as a director because you are one yourself – it’s a mutual level of respect from day one.”
And Rachel credits her AAT qualifications as a key step in her career to date.
“AAT has given me the advantage of having an easily recognisable qualification which ensures people trust you. I feel that it’s given me a huge help in being able to bypass university, work, earn money, buy my own home and still keep up with my peers!”
After leaving school with A Levels in English, Accounting and Business, 24-year-old Keteata Reid from London was confident of her path to career success – and for her it was studying with AAT.
“Owning my own business is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Keteata explains. “I chose to study with AAT because it offered me a direct route into accounting.”
After studying for an AAT Accounting and Finance Diploma, Keteata has now progressed to becoming a full member of AAT (MAAT) and an AAT Licensed Accountant. She currently runs her own small business with a small number of clients, mostly from the hair and beauty industry.
“Being an AAT member has been hugely beneficial to me,” she says. “Even when I’ve experienced fear and doubt, AAT has been there to support me. I also love the events and the opportunities I’ve gained from being a member.”
Outside of work, Keteata enjoys travelling and learning Italian. And she’s already reaping the benefits of being her own boss.
“I love the flexibility and have been able to experience growth and achieve personal goals – something I might not have been able to do without my AAT qualifications.”
When Laura Whyte, 34 from Truro, was preparing to leave school back in 2005, she knew that her heart was set on a career in the finance industry. She was set to take a degree in accounting and finance but was then offered a position as an apprentice at a large local firm.
“It was definitely the right choice for me,” says Laura. “I enjoyed being able to put what I was learning into practice at the office.”
Laura progressed through her studies and, having taken a new job in 2008 as accounts assistant at a construction company, was also able to progress her career, rising to the position of finance director in 2013. A year later, she set up her own accountancy firm, Whyfield.
“We now have 15 members of staff – including five taking AAT qualifications,” she adds. “Accountancy apprenticeships open the door to so many opportunities in a range of sectors, not just working in a practice, because all companies need accounts departments of some kind.”
And the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t dampened client appetites for Whyfield’s accountancy services – far from it.
“We’ve just had our busiest quarter ever,” Laura explains. “With new rules and regulations, VAT reductions, grants, help with furloughed staff and cash flow issues, we have been crucial in terms of offering advice and support. We’ve actually been hiring during this period as there’s even more work than ever to do.”
For more information about AAT qualifications, visit the AAT website.