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Employment

So you’re getting your exam results. What next?

From traineeships and apprenticeships to Kickstart jobs 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 receive exam results this week. A-levels and SQAs will be published on Tuesday, August 10, while GCSE results are revealed on Thursday, August 12.

Results day is even more nerve-wracking than most years after exams were cancelled for the second year running because of the pandemic. Once again, pupils will be awarded ‘teacher assessed grades’ or TAGs. Many young people who were forced to spend time studying remotely will have faced extra challenges that could affect their grades.

However, 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.

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. 

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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.

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.

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.

Get a job

If you want to immediately enter the world of work, there are some steps you can take to find the right opportunity for you. Jobs site Adzuna, a partner in The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance, currently has more than 10,000 ‘entry-level’ roles across the UK. The top sectors for entry-level workers are IT, sales and marketing, according to Adzuna.

Sam Olsen, chief executive of Movement To Work, said: “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.”

Get a summer job

A lot of school leaver schemes don’t start until September, so the summer holidays are a great time to get work experience, according to Olsen.

“Think about how you’re going to use this time so you have experience to put on your CV,” she said. “There are so many jobs in retail and hospitality and there is nothing better than some of the experience you can gain– customer service, cash flows, how to add value to a customer. There is so much learning in those early jobs which will really give you confidence, independence and leadership, then when you’re applying for something longer term you’ve got it on your CV.”

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.

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.

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”. 

Get a job through the Kickstart Scheme

People aged 16 to 24 who are receiving Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment can apply for a six-month paid Kickstart job, which is part of a government scheme. Having that work experience aims to help young people build their CV and secure their next job. For more information speak to your Universal Credit work coach.

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

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