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Is A School Leaver Programme The Best Route For Me?

Introduction To School Leaver Programmes
When it comes to options for students who are unsure as to whether university is the best route for them to take, school leaver programmes are the relatively new kids on the block and, along with apprenticeships, they have given students genuine alternatives to the traditional university route. No longer is it seen as giving up the chance of a bright future if you choose not to study full time for a further three plus years (depending on your course) in higher education. Indeed, companies who have introduced school leaver programmes into their recruitment policy are in search of bright, dedicated young people like you to fill their places.

Wondering what these school leaver programmes are all about? If that's the case, then head on over to read our more indepth article called, "What Is A School Leaver Programme?" to get more of an idea. And if you are already familiar with school leaver programmes, you might be thinking, "Yes, I know what they are, but how do I know if a school leaver programme is right for me?"

They do take serious consideration so let us help you out a little by telling you about some of the possible pros and cons of school leaver programmes. After you have pondered over these, you might be in a better position to make a decision.
What Are The Pros Of School Leaver Programmes?
1. School Leaver Programmes Take Former Students Straight Into The World Of Work
One of the advantages of school leaver programmes is that you get yourself straight into the world of work. This is ideal for those students who can't face the thought of further full time study, perhaps with part time student jobs to help fund it.

School Leaver Programmes are also seen as giving school leavers a head start over graduates in their chosen career because you gain practical work experience right from the word go. This could make you more employable at a later stage and it certainly doesn't do your CV any harm to have that top quality training and experience listed on there, maybe even with glowing references in thrown in for good measure.

It is also said about school leaver programmes that because you are already enthusiastic about and committed to your future career, and you are younger when you begin the process, you can soak up more knowledge about the culture of your industry and therefore really excel in your chosen career.

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2. No Student Debts Building Up While You Learn
Studying full time at university for a degree or similar is an expensive time and students can build up a lot of debt. Many young people take on evening or weekend student jobs or seasonal work during the holidays to help fund their studies. If you manage to get yourself a place on a school leaver programme, not only are you receiving top class training and work experience, you will also be getting paid a salary during that time. Depending on the company and the industry you want to pursue your career in, you could be earning over £20,000 a year. And, if you need to move away from home to do the programme you want to do, some companies will also pay your accommodation fees, too.

3. School Leaver Programmes Are A Genuine Alternative To University.
You should think of school leaver programmes as beginning your graduate career a few years earlier than you would be doing if you went to university. They are a genuine alternative to university and are open to people of all backgrounds; provided you can meet the academic entry requirements of course.

4. Some School Leaver Programmes Mean You Don't Have To Miss Out On University
Again, it depends on they type of school leaver programme you are doing and the company you are working for but some schemes will require you to do a stint at university - this could be in a 1 to 2 year block or in shorter bursts. So choosing to go straight into the world of employment straight from leaving school doesn't necessarily mean you will miss out on the university experience completely.

5. The Choice Of School Leaver Programmes Is Growing All The Time
In the world of options for school leavers, the school leaver programme is a relative newcomer to the scene, especially compared to apprenticeships and university. This means school leaver programmes are constantly evolving and the choices out there are growing all the time.

As interest in school leaver programmes increases, there is a growth in the number of companies offering them and there is also a higher intake by some of the companies that are already running successful programmes. Even within the same sectors, formats differ from company to company and this means school leavers have a bigger chance to find a school leaver programme that matches their needs.

Traditionally, school leaver programmes are marketed at A-Level students with a minimum of two A-Levels but in the retail sector, Tesco have taken it one step further by opening a pilot programme for those young people who want to leave school at 16 years old, straight after GCSEs.

6. School Leaver Programmes Mean You Do Not Miss Out On Further Qualifications
Whatever type of industry you choose and the type of company you work for, a school leaver programme doesn't mean you forfeit further qualifications. Some school leaver programmes will mean you come out with a degree on completion. Others will offer you an equivalent professional or vocational qualification and others will mean you get a combination of the two.

7. School Leaver Programmes Have A Support Element Built Into Them
Whichever school leaver programme you do, the company you are working for is investing a lot of time and money into you. As a young person, you are the future of their industry, and your training will likely be world class so that you can excel in what you do. While there will be lots of hard work and much to learn, you will have mentors and support staff to work with you on different aspects of your chosen industry as well as appraisals and other support meetings where you will receive feedback on your performance and where you can also air any problems, concerns or ideas for the company.
What Are The Cons Of School Leaver Programmes?
There are pros and cons to any choices we make regarding our future and it is worth being aware of and considering as many as possible so that we can make the best choices for our personal situation. So, in trying to decide if a school leaver programme is the most suitable route for you, we've looked at the advantages to this path. Now let's consider some of the potential disadvantages.

1. School Leaver Programmes Result In Vocational Or Professional Qualifications
Although you get a degree or equivalent on completion of your school leaver programme, that qualification is likely to be professional or vocational and directly related to the career you are following. Although this is perfect if you are happy in your job, if you decide further down the road that this isn't the career for you, your qualification won't be in a broad subject and you might find it a bit limiting.

Students who go to university full time have the option to choose more general courses which gives them more leeway to make a decision about their future. Even if those students choose a more vocational degree, they still have a varied student life and the option to try out different student jobs or work experience to get a flavour of the world of work.

2. A School Leaver Programme Means You Miss Out On Student Lifestyle
School Leaver Programmes are for those students who are enthusiastic and dedicated to their future career. Although there will be periods at university or other specialised training centres, you will be there to study and learn. Some of your study may also be distance learning which you will be doing while simultaneously working on a full time basis. Long working hours and home study doesn't leave much time for wild student parties or lounging around in your student accommodation.

It can be argued that students who study full time at university are more employable in a range of graduate careers because as well as their degree, they have developed many other transferrable skills from a mixture of student jobs and extracurricular activities. Being a full time university student means you are obviously older when you start to work full time and have therefore had more time to really think about what you want to do.

3. In Some Cases, Competition For Places On School Leaver Programmes Can Be High
School Leaver Programmes are for proactive students who are really certain about what they want to do as their career. As university becomes an increasingly costly option, competition for places on school leaver programmes is increasing and some companies receive hundreds of applications from young people for each place they have available. This means you need to start thinking about school leaver programmes during the final year of your A Levels and as well as trying to make sure you get the minimum UCAS points your industry requires, thinking about how you can make sure you are the one who is chosen from the hundreds. You need to get yourself organised and prepared at an early stage.

4. You Need To Research Because Each School Leaver Programme Is Different
Unlike accredited apprenticeships which follow national guidelines, the individual company tailors its school leaver programmes for their requirements. This means young people looking to do school leaver programmes need to research different companies to see what their programmes entail.

Examples of elements you need to look into are: What are the minimum entry requirements? Will you need to move away from home? If you do need to move away from home, will your accommodation be paid for? How much is your salary? Is your study at a university or at a training centre? What are the qualifications you receive at the end of the school leaver programme and is there a guaranteed job after completion? What are the experiences of those on the different companies current school leaver programmes? Many firms will have embedded videos featuring young people talking about their experiences.

Obviously, individual needs are different so whatever your circumstances, each consideration will carry different weight. You need to choose the company that has the best school leaver programme to suit you.

5. At The Moment, School Leaver Programmes Are Only Available With Larger Companies
Those young people who like the idea of school leaver programmes will find that they are only available with larger companies at the moment. The sectors of retail, finance, banking and some industrial sectors are well represented. If you would prefer to work for a smaller company in a more intimate environment then, for the moment at least, a school leaver programme may not be the best route for you.
I'm Not Sure I Want To Go To University And Am Considering Whether School Leaver Programmes Are Right For Me. What's My Next Move?
If you are at college and are thinking university may not be the best move for you, then, as we said above, start to do your research. Find out which companies offer school leaver programmes and do your homework on them.

There are also school leaver networking events that are organised around the United Kingdom. Go to these and take part in the interactive workshops and speak face to face with staff who work for the companies you have in mind. You will also meet other young people considering school leaver programmes. Speak with them and find out why they want to do one. Events like this can give you a flavour what's expected of you and you can decide if that's the type of environment you want to work in.

If, after attending events like this, you decide a school leaver programme is not for you, then don't worry; it wasn't time wasted. The fact you have taken your future career plans seriously enough to attend an event is always going to look good on your CV.

If you are interested in applying for school leaver programmes then you can search and apply for them here >>>.

And what if you don't want to do a school leaver programme and university is definitely out for you for now? Well again, don't worry, you still have options:
  • You could take time out and find a gap year or temporary job while you think about your future career plans.
  • If you've had part time evening or weekend student jobs that you really enjoyed while you were doing your A-Levels, is there room for career progress there? Maybe they have a trainee management programme or something similar.
  • If you really need to get away from it all, maybe you could find seasonal work abroad; compare American summer camp agencies and apply for work in a summer camp for example or work a ski season throughout winter in one of the European ski resorts.
  • Take on a whole variety of summer jobs and the company you work for may well be able to offer you the opportunity of further inhouse training for gaining promotion. Maybe they even have apprenticeships available.
  • And if you just want to get stuck into full time work that guarantees professional and vocational training with nationally recognised qualifications, why not think about apprenticeships? You can compare school leaver programmes to apprenticeships here
  • Or there are loads of entry level jobs which do not require previous experience or skills.

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