As local high school leavers weigh up their future options, we take a glimpse at how apprenticeships and further sixth form study both help to forge the right career path.
Younger JLife readers will face some tough choices as they approach the end of their GCSEs and consider whether continuing full-time education in sixth form or stepping into the working world through an apprenticeship is for them. It’s a time when everyone’s personal motivations and career aspirations are widely different, and it might be all too easy to be swayed by what others think. But a few little pointers may also help ease off the pressure.
As the traditional route for gaining a place at university, studying at sixth form or an external college opens up a rich learning environment for students guided by the best available teachers with Key Stage 5 expertise. The massive range of subjects across A Level and BTEC qualifications also keeps the two years even more flexible for students as they hone in on what interests them most.
Assessed by exams and essays, traditional A Levels equip students with the academic writing and referencing skills needed to prepare for degree level, while the more vocational BTEC qualifications offer more practical learning, with sport, business, engineering, and fashion remaining the most popular subjects in the UK.
For the lucky ones who already have their sights set on one career, a BTEC qualification could fast track them towards the right degree for them. However, if you change your mind it may be difficult to get on to a degree programme in a completely different subject area. With A Levels, as you study multiple subjects and demonstrate the capability of academic writing, you have more flexibility if you change your mind.
It all depends on the career path, with some universities preferring students with vocational qualifications while others favouring students with A Levels. No matter which university course students have in mind, checking the entry requirements is a must.
Combining real work with academic learning, the paid element of apprenticeships is a driving incentive for young adults once the GCSE exams are over. A reliable pathway to kickstart a career immediately
after school’s out, the 14.1% increase in apprentice applicants over the 2021/22 academic year proves that its popularity is steadily on the up.
While 16-year-olds can choose between an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship to unlock pathways in hundreds of sectors, the popularity of finance, construction, and engineering courses is still immense.
And although the national minimum wage for apprentices is currently set at £4.81, many employers pay a lot more and offer competitive salaries alongside networking opportunities, peer-to-peer support, and other financial perks including discounts and paid annual leave.
The even better news is that 91% of apprentices go on to secure employment or further study after completing their training, so although the apprenticeship time period can be shorter than college study, there are always options lined up once it’s over.
The bottom line
Both avenues are now highly regarded by employers and respected in different ways. University degrees gained after A level or BTEC studies show a deep knowledge and understanding of certain subjects backed by a range of transferable skills, while apprenticeships grounded in practical knowledge and real-life work experience can also be a game changer to get your foot in the door of a top sector. A growing number of businesses in industries including finance, business management, and engineering are now offering exclusive apprenticeship schemes for long-term recruitment alongside employing degree holders.
Both choices are positive, but take time in making the right decision for you.
Find out more about both options by visiting Ucas.com and Educationhub.blog.gov.uk