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Five Practical Alternatives to Going to University

It can be disheartening when you don’t get the exam results you want, especially if you have your sights set on university. In a previous blog post, we’ve covered some of the options that you have if you don’t get the exam results you had hoped for.

This post however, is for school students who want to change their tact and take a different approach to carving out their career path.

1. Take a leadership course

Gain some qualifications to back up your flair

The one thing that every organisation in every industry needs is leaders. If you naturally take charge of situations, then you could consider developing your qualities and gaining some qualifications that showcase your sought-after skillset. Leadership skills are useful in almost every job and the people who have them are typically the type of people who end up managing teams, directing companies and changing industries.

Check out a course for young people

If this sounds like the type of role that you’d enjoy, then there are several curriculum-based leadership courses that you could apply to. Your Turn is a UK leadership course for young people run by Common Purpose, a leadership development organisation. This program challenges young people to think differently about how things in the world are done, what can be improved and how they can be achieved.

Similarly, leading UK youth charity Ambition run a leadership programme for young people who want to gain qualifications, confidence and develop a competitive edge in specific areas of their careers.

2. Take a coding course

Develop your talent for technology

The way in which digital technology has impacted the job market over the last few years is incredible and it shows no signs of slowing down. If you’re a whizz on a computer and are able to think about things logically, then you might want to consider taking a course in coding.

According to a survey carried out in 2014 by the website Code.Org, 52% of adults believe that coding should take priority as a subject in school, particularly over foreign languages.

This can open up job opportunities

If you look on any jobs website, you’re likely to find positions for various different types of computer coders and the salaries on offer are always in the top range. In digital industries, skills and ability are often more valued than qualifications but if you can show that you have both, you could find yourself on the path to a very rewarding career.

3. Consider an apprenticeship

It's a better option for some

Some young people see apprenticeships as being the alternative if you don’t get into university. However, when you consider the demand for some apprenticeships in the UK, you’ll soon see why applying for an apprenticeship can be a better option than studying at university.

New apprenticeships are on offer

According to an article published in the Guardian earlier this year, there is a huge skills shortage in the UK for construction workers, plumbers and engineers. One of the reasons given for these shortages is the lack of apprenticeships on offer to young people in these industries.

In 2013, there were 7,280 apprentices in the UK who completed their Construction Skills training, whereas the governing body estimates that the industry needs 35,000 new entrants just to meet demand.

Similarly, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK will need more than a million new engineers and technicians by 2020.

If you’re looking for a career where your skills will be in great demand, then you could consider taking on an apprenticeship in one of these industries.

If you're wedded to the idea of getting a degree but like the idea of learning while you earn, you could consider a higher apprenticeship or a degree apprenticeship – with these courses, you could find yourself with a master's degree.

4. Work for yourself

You can start a business while at school

Okay, so you didn’t get the grades that you had hoped for in your exams. But did you know that some of the UK’s wealthiest businessmen didn’t even finish school!

Sir Richard Branson, one of the most well-known businessmen in the world left school when he was just 16, as did Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group whose stores include Topshop, BHS and Dorothy Perkins. And tough-love entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar is another famous businessman who also left school at the first opportunity, when he was 16.

And who wouldn’t want to be in any of their shoes right now?

What’s more, a 2015 report published by accountancy software company Sage found that over half of UK business owners left school by the time they were 18.

Do a course to boost your business brains

If being your own boss and working for yourself sounds like the way forward for your career, then you might want to consider enrolling in a Princes Trust course. Their Enterprise Programme for young people is designed to help anyone who is interested in being self-employed and wants to start their own business.

Similarly, GOV.UK (formerly Business Link) and Business Gateway in Scotland provide advice and run training courses for anyone interested in starting their own enterprise.

5. Take some time out

If you find yourself feeling disappointed with your grades, then perhaps the best thing for you right now is to take some time out. Remember, you don’t have to have your career path mapped out in front of your as soon as you leave school. Sometimes, taking the time to gain some life experience is the best way to discover what your future career should be.

Go travelling

Why not do some travelling for a bit and give yourself some space to decide what your next move should be. You could look into travelling around Europe by train using an Interrail Europe pass, or working abroad and taking a gap year.

Think about a skills-based training programme

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to remember that university isn’t for everyone. Skills-based training programmes can, in many cases, start you on a successful career path sooner and make you more money that going to university can.

What other alternatives are there to going to university? Can you think of any other growing industries that are worth pursuing as a career?

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