Is a school leaver programme right for your child?

Is a school leaver programme the right path for your child?
Use our tips and checklist to find out what to look for when assessing school leaver programmes and higher apprenticeships, so you can give your child informed support and guidance.

Would your child be best off at university or on a school leaver programme that offers training and qualifications on the job – and a salary? It can be difficult to weigh up the options objectively, particularly as all school leaver programmes are different. We’ve put together a series of points to help you assess what’s on offer and support your child’s decision-making.

What are school leaver programmes?

School leaver programmes vary from one employer to another and offer different levels of qualification. So what exactly are school leaver programmes, apprenticeships and sponsored degrees? Our guide to the alternatives to university explains these options.

Your own experience of education, training and employment is bound to affect your views about the best foundation for your child’s future career. Newspaper reports can be influential too, but these may be distorted or fail to tell the whole story. Check out our top five myths about university and employment prospects to help you separate fact from fiction.

If your child is keen to do a school leaver programme instead of going to university, you might be concerned that he or she won’t have the broad range of future career options that a degree would give. Check out our advice on whether a school leaver programme means specialising too early to explore the future impact of career choices at this stage.

Researching and meeting employers

Many employers have made a big commitment to investing in their school leaver programmes and apprenticeships and they often have areas on their websites specifically aimed at parents and teachers to provide information and respond to common concerns. Some employers attend fairs and events for school leavers, which are a chance for both potential applicants and parents to approach them with any questions. Our advice on school leaver job fairs will help you get as much as possible out of these events.

Whatever your child wants to do, being keen and motivated is a good indicator of success. At university, attendance won’t be monitored in the same way as at school and no-one will chivvy students into working as a classroom teacher might. At work, school leaver programme recruits will be expected to be professional and to demonstrate initiative and self-reliance. Whatever path your child takes at this stage it’s important that it is taken willingly, as there’s going to be a limit to how much you can do to push and encourage them.

Decision time! The questions your child needs to answer

Here are the key questions your child should be asking to help him or her make a fully informed choice.

  • How certain are they in their career choice? There’s plenty of in-depth information about different career areas in our sector-specific advice section. Our tips on how to choose a career provide some guidance for the undecided.
  • Does this route require certain qualifications that only graduates can access? Is there a limit to how far you can progress in this career without a degree, or to what paths you can take? For example, school leaver programmes in law currently don’t lead to becoming a solicitor or a barrister, as you need to have a degree to qualify for these professions. If your child ultimately aspires to become a chartered engineer, the easiest way is to do a masters degree at an early stage, and this is not on offer from school leaver programmes at the moment.
  • What qualifications are on offer? Choosing between uni and a school leaver programme isn’t necessarily an either/or choice. Some school leaver programmes and higher apprenticeships include fully funded university degrees, while others offer professional qualifications that are usually taken at postgraduate level.
  • What support will be available for your child on a school leaver programme? For example, is there a buddy system? Is there help with finding accommodation? How much travel will be expected? Is there any help with the cost of relocation, such as an interest-free loan? Are there any other benefits? Some employers might offer extras such as a new laptop.
  • On the school leaver programme or higher apprenticeship, what is the balance between time spent working and time spent studying? How many hours a week of home study are trainees expected to complete?
  • What is the contract on offer? Is it full-time permanent or is it fixed-term and due to finish when the school leaver programme is finished? What happens at the end of the programme? How long is it?
  • What is the salary and benefits package? Will the school leaver have access to the same benefits as other full-time permanent employees? Will your child’s salary be comparable to that of a graduate by the time they reach the same age? For example, CGI has committed to ensuring that those who have completed its sponsored degree programmes will not be worse off in terms of salary than their peers who have joined the company fresh from graduation. You can find out more about salary and career progression prospects for school leavers by asking employers directly, if the information is not readily available on their websites.
  • How much travel is expected? Will trainees need to move round different parts of the country to complete the programme? If so, will they need to travel back to attend college or university on a regular basis, perhaps one day a week? Will travel costs be covered?

If your child is considering going to university as an alternative to getting onto a school leaver programme, it’s worth bearing in mind that some degree programmes are highly vocational and include work placements. Also, the paid internships on offer to students from many big employers can be a stepping-stone to graduate employment. Our advice on whether university is the right option for your child will help you assess the best way forward. If higher education is an option, make sure you and your child are fully informed about student funding and finance as it’s best to apply for this as early as possible.

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