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School Leaver Programmes

An awesome alternative to being a student at university are school leaver programmes. They are a recent addition and rapidly gaining credibility as a viable option to consider after you finish your A-levels.

Many of the top firms in industries such as Accountancy, ICT, Construction, Tax and Audit and Banking are offering school leaver programmes to attract bright, talented A-level qualified students into the world of work.

The possibilities are breathtakingly enticing but the job opportunities are oversubscribed and very competitive, so seize your chance when you can. 

Instead of studying for 3 to 4 years at university for a degree; and with both tuition fees and living expenses creating a student debt of usually over £50,000 before you even start work, these employers will pay for you to study a degree in their field of expertise, while you work for them as an employee and get paid a salary.

For example the top professional services firms e.g. EY (Ernst and Young) and Grant Thornton offer school and college leaver programmes where you join the company as an employee, they pay you a good salary (can be up to £22,000 in London), on top of which they pay all your tuition fees for your degree (or equivalent) and guarantee you a permanent position after you complete your degree.

In addition you may also gain a professional qualification such as ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), all without incurring any or very little student debt and you’re already working; progressing on your career path. 

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t, though there are commitments from your side as well.

Many of these firms will ask you to sign up to a 5 year school leaver programme, so you will be working for the same firm all this time.

This is because they want to see a ROI (Return on Investment) on the time and money they are investing in your learning, reap its rewards when you continue to work for them after you qualify.

You may find that a few of these employers offer to pay for 50-75% of your tuition fees and you pay the remainder; a sizeable reduction in your student debt. 

In addition you’ll need to be passionate about and committed to your work, as you will be working and studying very long hours with short annual leave entitlements and you may find your social life curtailed due to little spare time.

This is instead of studying full time at university where you can enjoy long holidays, significantly shorter studying and working hours and a very full social life.

Despite the long hours and very hard work, the limited places are hotly contested but where can you find out more and apply? You can apply directly on the individual employer websites and a basic google search should give you the names of employers offering school leaver programmes.
A different style of school leaver programmes are also starting to take off in other industries such as Hospitality, Media, Public Services and Science and Technology where they are called Higher Apprenticeships.

With Higher Apprenticeships you will usually need A-level qualifications as minimum entry requirements, work for an employer, be paid a wage (though this can be the minimum apprenticeship wage rather than the higher salaries offered by professional services firms) and study for a professional qualification in this sector.

This is usually a Higher National Diploma (equivalent to the first 2 years of a degree course) or an honours degree itself which your employer will pay for, again meaning no or very little student debt.

Find out how to apply and more by visiting the national apprenticeship guide or reading Studential’s useful Apprenticeship Guide.

Whether you decide your next step is applying to University or a school leaver programme, give yourself time to think about it carefully before you make your choice.

It may help to chat it through with family and friends. In the end it’s your decision, so go with the option you believe you’ll be happiest with and which will also progress your career.