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School Leaver Schemes Versus Apprenticeships

What Is The Difference Between A School Leaver Programme And An Apprenticeship?
As you head towards the end of your time as a high school student and your GCSEs or A Level exams are looming, the inevitable happens where you are forced to realise that you have come to the next big step in your life and you need to think about what you want to happen next. What is the future you want to create for yourself?

Some students will be relishing the thought of more specialised, future academic study and looking forward to maybe moving away from home to a university of their choice to live a more independent student life. Maybe progressing to full time study to read for an undergraduate degree at university is the path you knew you were always going to follow. Now it's just a case of getting those all important A-Level results to get into your first choice university.

But what happens if you realise further study is just not the route for you? Not all young students want to go on to colleges and universities. Maybe you have always been the type of person who just can not wait to leave school and you are chomping at the bit to get out there into the world of work, to earn some money, to get stuck in with the practical side of things rather than sitting in lectures and tutorials. Maybe you thought you wanted to go on to study at university but now you are thinking that route might not be the one for you? Or perhaps you have had part time work or temporary holiday jobs that you have decided you would like to pursue further? This final one is quite common for young people who take on student jobs.

Well, the good news is, if you fit into any of those categories above, it is by no means the end of the world. Quite the contrary, in fact, because these days there are other viable options out there for young people who have decided full time study at university is not for them.

Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes
Lots of young students are now starting to consider Apprenticeships or School Leaver Programmes as an alternative to university. But, if this is something you are considering, how do you know which to choose? Will you go for a School Leaver Programme or will you opt for an Apprenticeship? Which would be the most suitable for you? While there is lots of crossover between Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes, there are also some differences. Let's take a look at some of the main similarities and differences between the two.
What Is The Meaning Of 'School Leaver' In 'School Leaver Programmes'?
Well, first of all, what is a school leaver? If your high school does not have a VIth Form department, the latest age you will be leaving school is 16 years old. From there, if you want to continue in full time education, you will go on to a separate VIth Form college, a technological college or another institute which offers your chosen courses. If your school has a VIth Form department and you choose to stay on to do further study, you will be a school leaver at around 18 years old.

So what is the significance of this? Well, generally, School Leaver Programmes are designed for students who have already completed A-Levels and equivalent qualifications and have chosen not to go on to study for a degree. A School Leaver Programme is viewed as a genuine alternative to university.
What Are The Main Differences Between School Leaver Programmes And Apprenticeships

Starting Age And Entry Requirements
The first main difference between School Leaver Programmes and Apprenticeships is the age at which you can take one up. Young people are eligible to begin an Apprenticeship at 16 years of age, right after leaving school. You can gain entry on an Apprenticeship at any age. Meanwhile, those students who opt to take the School Leaver Programme route will be choosing to leave school or college after A-Levels or equivalent, as mentioned above.

While it's possible to land a place on an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship scheme with few GCSEs, getting yourself a placement on a School Leaver Programme can be very competitive and companies will be looking for good points scores from A-Levels and similar, just as if you were trying to get a place at university.

And having said all that, school leaver programmes are constantly evolving. For example, Tesco are currently piloting a scheme where young people can enter their school leaver programme at 16 years old.

Companies Offering Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes
At the moment, School Leaver Programmes for A-Level students are limited to just a few of the larger companies in the United Kingdom and are mainly in specialised sectors such as accountancy, engineering and construction. However, there are also School Leaver Programmes offered by some of the bigger companies in the retail sector and hospitality.

Meanwhile, the Apprenticeship opportunities for school leavers are more wide ranging and young people could find an Apprenticeship in just about any career they wish to pursue. Anything from beauty and wellbeing to sport and fitness, and from business and IT to public services, to name just a few. Apprenticeships are also offered by firms of all different shapes and sizes so in that sense, there is more scope for those young people who are thinking about doing an Apprenticeship. You can see a list of Apprenticeship types here.

Content of Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes
Those firms which are Apprenticeship accredited will follow a national framework so your training and resulting qualifications in your chosen field will follow a set pattern as governed by the framework. This should mean future employers will know exactly what your experience is.

School Leaver Programmes, on the other hand, are offered by individual companies and the framework of these programmes is arranged by the company. Students who wish to take on a School Leaver Programme will need to do their own research on what each company offers to make sure the programme offers them the experience, opportunities and qualifications they are looking for in order to progress their career in the future.

Resulting Qualifications From Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes
There are three levels to an Apprenticeship - Intermediate Level, Advanced Level and the Higher Apprenticeship - and for all of them, you will be aiming for a work based qualification. Apprenticeships can last from one to four years and resulting qualifications can be anything from the equivalent for five GCSEs at grades A to C, to a BTEC, to NVQ Levels 2, 3 and 4 and even a foundation university degree, depending on how far you want to take your studies and career. Once your Apprenticeship is completed, if you wish to continue progressing in your chosen profession, depending on the firm you work for, your company may support you in further learning or practical training.

As School Leaver Programmes are promoted as a viable alternative to full time study at university, the resulting qualification from the completion of your programme (via on the job training and attending courses) could be a degree based around your chosen specialism. While an Apprenticeship might involve attending an out of workplace course once a week or for a fixed, short term block, a School Leaver Programme might mean you will be required to spend an academic year as a student at a university in order to gain further expertise in your field. Again, this depends on the company you will be working for.

Because of the higher levels of qualification gained at the end of the programme, it generally takes longer to complete a School Leaver Programme than it does to complete an Apprenticeship.
What Are The Main Similarities Between Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes?

Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes
The main similarity between Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes is the fact that they are both good options for students who don't wish to continue with full time study but who want to progress by learning a trade or profession by working in a more practical, hands on environment. On the job training is central to both Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes so they suit young people who prefer a more practical rather than theoretical approach.

Get Paid To Learn
Getting a place on an Apprenticeship or a School Leaver Programme means you will be getting paid to learn rather than having to take out student loans and run up lots of debt while you are a student at university. It means you don't need to go out and look for student jobs to fund your studies. The amount you get paid will depend on your age, the level and type of Apprenticeship you are doing or the amount the company pays its staff who are doing School Leaver Programmes.

Because the entry requirements are higher for a School Leaver Programme, salaries can be quite impressive (many salaries are well above £20,000 a year) for young people choosing to leave school at 18 years old. While some Apprenticeships might only pay the national minimum wage, others will also offer attractive salaries, depending on the level of Apprenticeship and the skill you are learning. But whatever the case, the main thing to remember is, regardless of salary, you are learning valuable, on the job skills, building up experience and much of the time, if any outside study is required, your employers will pay for this for you, too.

Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes Require Your Commitment
A further similarity between Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes is that they both require young people to make a decision about their future and commit to it. To an extent, they require you to be sure about your future career; this is more so the case for those wanting to do a School Leaver Programme.

Both Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes mean you will be doing on the job training in a specialist area and while you will be investing, in many cases, a few years of your life into this, the company you are working for will be investing time and money into you in return. On the other hand, if you are completely convinced about the path you want your future career to take, Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes can be the perfect beginning to that path.
So Which Do You Choose?
Well, there is no case of 'one is better than the other' when it comes to Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes. It's not really a competition between the two. It's simply a case of you need to decide which of them is best for you. Obviously, that choice is limited if you don't want to go on to do A-Levels or similar. If you are leaving school at 16 years old, then entry to a School Leaver Programme might not be an option for you at that time.

Likewise, with School Leaver Programmes, you may not be able to do one - even if you achieve fantastic A-Level results - because of your chosen specialism. Unfortunately, at the moment, there isn't a whole variety of School Leaver Programme out there and there may not be one available for what you want to do. The good news in this case is that there is no upper age limit for entry to an Apprenticeship and there is a whole variety of specialisms on offer, as mentioned above.

So, it's time for you take the initiative. What is your ultimate aim by wanting to take on an Apprenticeship or a School Leaver Programme? You need to make sure the qualifications on offer at the end of your programme match what you want to be doing in the future and then after that, you need to do your research to see what's out there for you. Check what's involved in the schemes you are considering choosing, put your application in and you could soon be earning while you learn, gaining high quality work experience and aiming towards qualifications as high as university degree level, all at the same time.

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