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The Camden school leavers choosing money and work over debt and a degree

School leavers are more and more viewing apprenticeships as a viable alternative to university School leavers are more and more viewing apprenticeships as a viable alternative to university

Monday, August 18, 2014
3:08 PM

A sizeable minority collecting their A-level results on Thursday were shunning the tradition of university and going for alternative career paths.

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A rise in student fees and an unpredictable job market have made apprenticeships, traineeships, distance learning and immediate employment more and more appealing.

Putting apprenticeships on a par with university degrees has been something the government has focused on, with the hands-on approach to learning expanded to more than 170 industries and 1,500 job roles – including finance, engineering and computing.

This year an independent poll commissioned by British Gas, one of the UK’s leading employers of apprentices, found just over 40 per cent of young people surveyed were considering apprenticeships as an alternative to university.

And the attraction is obvious. Apprentices receive at least the national minimum wage – giving some degree of financial security – and on top of earning work experience, they’ll have a qualification at the end.

Skills minister Nick Boles said the poll results showed leavers are “rightly considering an apprenticeship as a serious option when deciding their future”.

It’s a message Anil Onurcan, from La Swap sixth form consortium, decided to take on board.

Anil, of Mansfield Road, Gospel Oak, will be doing an accountancy apprenticeship for 12 months at TV broadcast company Molinare in Soho.

At the end of his year he will have a level three qualification to add to his B in maths, C in economics and soon-to-be completed AS-level in business and finance.

“It’s good to get some experience,” he said after picking up his A-level results.

“It’s hard to find a job without experience and it’s definitely going to help me stand out from the crowd.

“I will be one of the few who will have experience, so it will be a big advantage.”

Another fear for school leavers, especially of late, is job security.

While former education secretary Michael Gove pushed for schools to place more focus on traditional subjects like maths and the sciences – all leading to well-trodden paths to university degrees like engineering or medicine – those with different passions feel university is no longer an automatic given.

Jessica Black, a student of Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead Garden Suburb, cringed at the idea of another three years of academia. The 18-year-old from Crouch End told the Ham&High: “I want to get a job quickly so I can have some financial security.

“I do better when I’m not in academia anyway – I learn better in a more active environment.

“I’m still not sure what I want to do but I love singing and playing guitar so maybe I’ll become a musician on the side. I can always do evening classes if I want. But university isn’t for me.”

For someone who says she isn’t academic, Jessica still managed to achieve A*s in Spanish and French, a B in history and a D in chemistry.

A number of government and private services have been set up to cater for a rising number of people like Anil and Jessica who, as NotGoingToUni.co.uk put it, “think differently”.

This includes apprenticeships.org.uk and Camden’s own camden.gov.uk/apprenticeships.

University degrees remain the top choice for those studying A-levels, but there’s been an expansion in alternatives for those feeling their talents could be grown elsewhere.

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