'University is not the only route after A levels'

Earning while you learn can be a great option for many getting their A-level results this week, says Sir Gerry Berragan

Sir Gerry Berragan

apprenticeships a levels results exams career options

With A-level results looming, thousands of students across England will be contemplating their futures: whether to go to university, take a vocational course or enter the job market.

This can be an anxious time for students and parents alike. And no wonder, the decisions made now will affect employability and earning potential for years to come. So it’s not something to be taken lightly.

University has long been seen as the next natural step following A levels, with many following the old adage that university will give you greater career prospects, life experience and greater earning potential than the alternative.

Logical step

So for many, their career path is clear – going to university is the next logical step before they enter the working world. It is, therefore, a waiting game for results day, which will be the deciding factor in terms of the university they’ll attend come September.

However, for others it might not be so clear-cut, with growing numbers seeking hands-on, practical experience in their career of choice. Finance also plays a major role in the decision-making process – can I really afford to go to university?

Apprenticeships: The best of both worlds

Apprenticeships offer young people the best of both worlds – the ability to gain a degree (depending on the apprenticeship), and the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field and earn a salary at the same time.

Since the Institute for Apprenticeships was set up in April last year, we’ve been working hard to support employers to develop more apprenticeship standards – the new blueprint for what an apprentice can expect as part of their experience – in areas where there is a clear gap in skills and expertise.

We have worked with over 2,500 employers to develop more than 325 different apprenticeship standards. In the past week alone, we have approved over 20 new standards, all offering something very different, depending on your interests and preferences.

The right springboard

Want a career designing new buildings or putting your stamp on existing structures? The four-year architect degree apprenticeship, developed by industry experts such as Fosters and Partners and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, could provide the springboard you’ve been looking for.

Is economics more your bag? HM Treasury, the Bank of England and other commercial employers have just developed a four-year professional economist apprenticeship that will give you the opportunity to develop impactful economic analysis that drives decision-making across big business or at the heart of government. You’ll also come out with a professional economist degree.

Ever thought about a career in national security? The ordnance, munitions and explosives professional is a five-year engineering apprenticeship that could enable you to provide technical advice on all aspects of explosive safety, or develop experiments to test explosive substances to explore performance boundaries.

Career paths

These are real jobs with clear career paths for progression. Companies across England have developed a range of apprenticeship opportunities, which rival full-time higher education courses, with leading employers all keen to tap into a pool of talented people who want to kick-start their career and get ahead of the competition.

For many people, university will be the right choice. But there is an alternative. Apprenticeships can offer a broader experience, let you earn while you learn, and – in some cases – give you the ability to get a degree at the same time.

Sir Gerry Berragan is chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships

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Sir Gerry Berragan

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