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What are School Leaver Programmes?

If you’re nearing the age that you’re about to leave school and you’re looking into your career options, then the chances are that you’ve come across the term ‘school leaver programmes’. In this advice post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about these schemes including what they are exactly, how you can apply for one and what opportunities are out there at the moment.

What is a school leaver programme?

Two students studying on a laptop

 ‘School leaver schemes are usually offered by big companies’

A school leaver programme is a scheme run by large employers for school students, normally in Year 13, who have the qualifications to go to university, but would rather enter into the world of employment. These programmes are normally offered by big companies, typically in the financial, IT, accountancy, tourism and retail industries. A lot of the schemes on offer are actually in fact, higher apprenticeships that have been re-branded under a new name.

Can I apply for a School leaver programme?

Entry requirements for these programmes tend to vary from company to company. They are designed specifically for school students who are bright, ambitious and have a willingness to learn. Most schemes won’t expect you to have experience of working in their particular sector. Instead, passion and enthusiasm is usually favoured over industry experience.

‘School leaver programmes are a great way to fast-track your career after leaving school.’

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In saying this though, most employers do have a list of minimum requirements that you’ll need to fulfil in order to be considered. Most companies will expect you to have A-Levels from grades A to C - the exact number of A-Levels will vary. Most will also specify that you need to have a minimum number of UCAS points. Again, the exact number will be different with every position but companies tend to look for candidates who have between 240 and 320 UCAS points.

It’s worth bearing in mind that competition for these programmes is high. These schemes are often seen as the ‘crème-de-la-crème’ of school leaver options and for that reason, positions tend to attract a lot applicants.

Don’t let this put you off though.

If you have the minimum qualifications needed to apply to a programme and you can show that you’re genuinely passionate about working with the company, then you have as good a chance as anyone of being hired.

What qualifications will I gain?

Student walking through a library

 'Most leaver programmes offer full degrees or professional qualifications’

Because these schemes are aimed at students who are qualified to go to university, companies tend to offer the opportunity to gain a degree as well as first-hand work experience. Employers are usually very upfront about what qualifications you’ll gain from completing their programme, as they realise that they’ll be competing with universities for suitable candidates.

The exact qualification that you gain will vary from company to company but the most common qualifications offered are a bachelor’s or foundation degree, with some employers offering other industry-related professional qualifications. In some cases, you may even have the chance to study for a postgraduate qualification as well.

How long do school leaver programmes last?

Two students sitting on chairs

 'Leaver schemes typically last between three and seven years’

Because these schemes combine on-the-job experience with study, they tend to last longer than a typical four year higher apprenticeship or university degree. However, by the time you’ve completed your programme, there’s every chance that you’ll have progressed further in your career than someone who chose an apprenticeship or university over the same time period.

Generally speaking, these programmes tend to last between three and seven years. This may sound like a long time but when you consider that in 2014, the average person stayed in a job for 4.6 years before moving on, you can see how valuable one of these schemes could be in providing you with training, qualifications and experience within a relatively short period of time after leaving school.

Every company structures their leaver schemes differently. In some companies, you’ll be asked to alternate your weeks between attending university and working in their offices, whereas other companies will require you to alternate your years until your programme is complete.

You should also bear in mind that some leaver programmes expect you to participate in distance learning, where you’ll given time off to focus on studying on your own, rather than at university with other students.

If one of the things that attracts you to a leaver scheme is attending university, then you should double check with the company beforehand whether this will be an option.

What school leaver programme opportunities are available?

You’ll find that a lot of the UK’s larger companies offer these programmes and sometimes the best way to find opportunities is to focus on specific companies that you’d like to work for and see if they have anything on offer.

To help you get started in your search for leaver programmes, we’ve compiled this list of employers who are currently offering schemes to school leavers:

Nestle (Food and Retail)

One of the world’s leading food manufacturers, Nestle is currently offering places at their academy to students who have a minimum of 300 UCAS points. As well as receiving a regular salary, Nestle will also fund your studying towards a full degree. Check out the video of their Academy programme below:

Grant Thornton (Accounting)

As part of Grant Thornton’s programme, you’ll have the opportunity to learn all about accountancy while studying towards an AAT, ATT or ACCA qualification. Afterwards, you’ll also have the chance to go on to study towards the ACA. Details of how to apply can be found on their website.

KPMG (Auditing and Tax)

If you have a head for numbers, then you might want to consider applying for KPMG’s programmes. They offer a range of different schemes in the UK where you’ll be paid a salary and have your studies funded. You can download a copy of their school and college leaver brochure here.

Deloitte (Financial)

Deloitte’s five year Bright Start Scheme offers school leavers the opportunity to gain qualifications, training and hands-on experience from the start. Applications for their 2016 school leaver programme opens on 14 September 2015. For more information on Deloitte’s Bright Start Scheme, check out their video below:

PWC (Audit and Assurance)

If you’re looking for a career in auditing, then you should take a look at the many opportunities currently being offered by PWC. They’re currently recruiting for their 2016 intake and they have positions available all over the UK, including Belfast, Cambridge, Leeds, London and Manchester, to name a few.

Marks and Spencers (Retail and Food)

M&S are currently looking for candidates for their Management Scheme for School Leavers. If you fancy being fast-tracked to becoming a manager for one of the UK’s largest retailers, then you should take a look at what they have to offer. This particular scheme lasts for 18 months and requires you to have two A-Levels in order to apply.

Are you thinking about applying for a school leaver programme? How did you find out about what opportunities are out there? Please feel free to share any tips that you might have about applying for school leaver schemes.

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