Advertisement
Employment

Jobs for school leavers: How traineeships and apprenticeships can start your career

From traineeships and apprenticeships to flexi-apprenticeships and school leaver schemes, university is not the only way to start a career.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils will be thinking about their next chapter as they  celebrate finishing their GCSE exams, and begin the anxious wait for the results on Thursday August 25. 

For those finishing their A Levels or T Levels, results day is Thursday August 18. 

But grades are not the be-all and end-all, nor are sixth-form education and university the only ways to start on a successful career path. There are plenty of options for school leavers, whether they’re 16 or 18, to enter the world of work.

Laura-Jane Rawlings, chief executive of Youth Employment UK, a charity working with people aged 16 to 24, told The Big Issue: “There are a lot of different pathways for young people so it’s about making sure you’ve got the right advice about what your options are so you can make a decision based on all the information.”

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

Jobs for school leavers: Traineeships

There are lots of benefits to going straight into work, including earning a wage while learning. A traineeship is “a course that includes a work placement that will get you ready for an apprenticeship or a job”, according to the National Careers Service

Traineeships are open to 16 to 24 year olds, or up to 25 for young people with learning difficulties, and help them get the skills they need to be “work-ready”. Traineeships last between six weeks and a year (but usually only up to six months) and include work preparation training, skills you need to find a job, maths and English support, work experience, and an improved CV. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trainees do not have to be paid, but they must be given constructive feedback, advice and development opportunities during the placement.

Traineeships combine a minimum of 70 hours of working with time in college or a training centre. They can lead to an apprenticeship, further education or a job. To find out more, ask your local college or training provider or speak to your school careers adviser. Search traineeships in England here.

The Big Issue Jobs

Looking for work?

There are 1 million new opportunities available at Big Issue Jobs.

Jobs for school leavers: Apprenticeships

If sixth-form education or university isn’t for you, an apprenticeship could be a great opportunity to get on-the-job skills training while earning a salary from the age of 16. 

Sam Stayner, operations manager at Catch22, a charity whose work includes vocational training and educating young people, told The Big Issue: “An apprenticeship is a great way to get yourself qualified, stay learning and learn work skills. There are so many different apprenticeships out there and there’s some really great, engaging apprenticeship providers who will work with you to find the best apprenticeship for you.”

Apprenticeships last at least a year, with 80 per cent of your time in the workplace and 20 per cent studying. There are different levels of apprenticeships with varying entry requirements, and they could lead to a certificate, diploma, degree or a masters. Apprenticeships can also open the door to a job, another apprenticeship, or further education. There are separate apprenticeship websites for England, Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland.

At the start of August 2021, the government announced a £7 million fund for flexi-apprenticeships, which will mean some apprentices will be able to complete work placements with different employers during the apprenticeship timeframe. The first apprenticeships are expected to start in early 2022.

Flexi-apprenticeships were brought in at the start of 2022 to allow some apprentices to complete work placements with different employers during their placement. The BBC and NHS are among the employers who have committed to recruiting up to 1,500 flexi-apprentices in total, with £7 million in funding for the scheme.

Jobs for school leavers: School leaver schemes

Hundreds of companies across sectors such as accountancy, engineering, finance, IT, law, leisure and retail offer school leavers the chance to learn and train while earning a wage. 

According to Movement To Work, a voluntary collaboration of UK employers committed to tackling youth unemployment, there are some great opportunities coming up with Wagamama, BAE Systems, Accenture and Salesforce. Find out more via Get My First Job.

Trainees on these schemes will often be given the opportunity to rotate in different roles to find out which suits them in programmes lasting three to seven years. You’ll usually need A Levels or equivalent to get on them and they can be a really quick way to climb the career ladder in the industry you want to work in. You can search school leaver programmes here.

Jobs for school leavers: Internships

If you have little or no work experience, an internship can be a great way to change that while trying out a job and industry from the age of 16 and above. Lasting between a week and a year, internships are based in the workplace and could lead to a full-time role or apprenticeship. Find out more about internships here.

Jobs for school leavers: Supported internships

People aged 16 to 24 who have learning difficulties or learning disabilities can apply for supported internships, which last a minimum of six months. Interns spend time with an employer learning skills for work and also receive support from a tutor and job coach.

Supported internships can lead to qualifications in GCSE English and maths, work, a traineeship or an apprenticeship. To find out more, ask your school or local college, or speak to your social worker or transition worker.

Article continues below

Getting a summer job

All young people must be in some form of education or recognised training until they are 18, but if you want to get a job over the summer holidays or weekends, make sure to find something that helps you learn new skills as well make a bit of cash, says Sam Olsen, chief executive of Movement To Work. 

If you want to immediately enter the world of work,: “Look for opportunities committed to career development. Also, have a look for mentoring programmes if you don’t have people who work for businesses in your social circle. If you have an idea of what sort of vocation you’d like to be in, you can simply Google ‘careers in…’ and Gov.uk has a whole host of information on how to get there, including how you can enter the profession and develop yourself.

“For some young people, their lives at home are really very chaotic and actually having a job that pays will help ensure they can look after themselves with the income that brings.”

Jobs for school leavers: Start a business

Some school leavers may be entrepreneurs who are keen to get cracking with a business plan. It’s a good idea to think carefully about your ideas and think about start-up costs, according to the National Careers Service. The Princes Trust offers an enterprise programme for 18 to 30 year olds “to transform their big ideas into business reality”. 

Career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Exam board staff to strike on A-Level results day
Strike action

Exam board staff to strike on A-Level results day

Working temperature: When is it too hot to work?
Employment

Working temperature: When is it too hot to work?

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stage wildcat strikes over 'pathetic' pay rise
Strikes

Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stage wildcat strikes over 'pathetic' pay rise

1 in 5 key worker families have children growing up in poverty
In-work poverty

1 in 5 key worker families have children growing up in poverty

Most Popular

Read All
All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
1.

All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
2.

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
3.

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
4.

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.