UCAS deadlines loom & alarming number of school-leavers feel pushed into going to university

OPEN-MINDED: Ryeham Amir didn’t opt for the university option, but took up a finance apprenticeship option studying accountancy

Scores of school-leavers feel they are being pushed down the route of going to university.

The study, carried out ahead of the deadline for UCAS applications on Tuesday 15th January, also found seven in 10 kids asked their parents for advice on what to do with their lives.

1,500 recent school leavers found two thirds were urged to go into higher education by teachers, while almost six out of ten said their parents wanted them to pick that option.

For the most part however, teens said their parents were supportive of whichever path they decided to follow. But one in five did say their parents pushed ‘too hard’ to pick further education.

Even with rising university fees adding a pressure on household finances, there is still only a minority of parents who are suggesting university alternatives to their children.

In recent years more and more young people and parents question the value they get from a traditional degree. The fees and associated debt quickly rack up with a full time degree, and owing £50,000 before you get your first job should really encourage young people to look at the options open to them.

Rob Alder, head of business development for AAT, who commissioned the research, said: “For many school leavers university remains entirely the correct option.

“However, it’s not the only one available and many may not realise that there are alternatives available, including high-quality apprenticeships and trainee schemes which can unlock the door to a long and successful career.

“In the accounting industry, for example, we see thousands of people each year who left school at 18, got a job and qualified a year earlier without the student debt that graduates built up.
“In addition, it did not harm their long term career prospects.”

Ryehan Amir left full time education in 2016, having completed his first year in sixth form college studying A-Levels. Instead, he took up an apprenticeship in the finance team at water treatment firm ESC Global Ltd, based in Doncaster, Yorkshire, studying AAT Accountancy Qualifications. He gets time off to study and his course fees are fully funded by his employer.

“Taking the AAT route meant that I could gain valuable experience from professional people in accountancy,” said Ryehan, now 20.

“The apprenticeship offered me a debt-free way to get qualified, as well as earning a salary whilst learning.

“At the end of my studies I will have a highly respected qualification behind me, teaching me all the qualities needed to be a successful accountant.”

While Ryehan, who lives in Scunthorpe, was at sixth form he was on the lookout for an apprenticeship position, but found that not everyone was so keen.

“My college weren’t able to offer me much support when it came to me searching and applying for an apprenticeship.

“I felt that, in some quarters, there was a belief that to succeed, you need to go to university.”

Of the school leavers who took part, 51 per cent went to university after finishing further education, and 11 per cent took part in an apprentice or trainee scheme.

Fifteen per cent went straight into the world of work without doing any further training.

When asked to consider what they thought was most important to them when deciding what to do after secondary school, 42 per cent said they wanted to pursue a route which they were passionate about.

One in four prioritised making money above all else, and 21 per cent wanted to do their best to follow a path which would provide them with a stable future.

Fifty six per cent of parents recommended that their kids continue on to university, and one in seven thought they would benefit from taking part in an apprenticeship.

Rob Alder added: “Many young people are about to submit their UCAS forms to apply for university; and that route will get a lot of attention.

“It’s essential that each young person is given the right advice for their individual strengths, to give them the best chance of having a successful career, even if that means advising them that university might not be the best option for them.

“There are other options to explore, including apprenticeships and traineeships, advertised by sources such as the National Apprenticeship Service and Get My First Job.”


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