Who needs a place at university anyway?

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UCAS data shows a seven per cent decrease in the number of students being automatically accepted into their chosen university degree, meaning a scramble for clearing places is imminent.

Then there will be those who twenty, ten or even five years ago would have been preparing to support themselves through a degree. They, though, will have snubbed the traditional route of securing a job after graduating from university.

Rising tuition fees coupled with an increase in applicants per place in a stagnant graduate job market have led to A-level students considering their next step with more caution than in previous years. Aware of the challenges facing today’s students, firms are rolling out heavyweight school-leaver schemes such as apprenticeships and sponsored-degree programmes to challenge the traditional university routes.

And this change is proving popular: new data by City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development have revealed the number of 14-to-19-year-olds starting higher-level vocational training has more than doubled in the past year.

In non-manufacturing, “modern” apprenticeships, the big four accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers has seen a 464 per cent rise in applications since 2008, and increased its school-leaver intake by 25 per cent since 2010. KPMG, Grant Thornton, Ernst & Young and Barclays have all introduced school-leaver schemes this year.

In the past, school leavers have been a relatively untapped source of labour for major employers, who chased university graduates rather than sharp individuals who didn’t want to pursue higher education.

However, the long-term trend suggests that the traditional university graduate route is no longer the be all and end all that it had been for school leavers of previous generations. And employers will no longer have to rely so heavily on the university milk round to fulfil their hiring needs.

Case studies: Apprentices lay the foundations for a career

Louise Starke, 18,joined Barclays, Walthamstow, on its cashier apprenticeship scheme in April

“When I left school I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t really have high ambitions and A-levels weren’t for me. I got some good GCSEs in drama and art, but I thought my maths grade might hold me back. I was going to the Jobcentre and applying for eight or nine jobs a week. Most of the time I wouldn’t hear anything back. Then I found out about an apprenticeship at Barclays. I never thought I would work in a bank because of my poor maths, but with the apprenticeship you can redo your qualifications while you are working. I have done well with my level 2 QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) and I’m aiming to do level 3 too. I’ve surprised myself that I can do it! When I complete the programme next year I’m hoping for a permanent role.

Alfie Turner, 18, has started a post-A-level higher apprenticeship scheme in tax at PwC

“Teachers were surprised by my decision not to go down the normal university route. Even though my grades were good enough, work is the right thing for me. It was very competitive to get the place here. If I receive my ATT (Association of Taxation Technicians) qualification at the end of the two years, PwC will take me on as an employee.”

Source: The Independent

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