Making the decision to leave school at 16, 17 or 18 isn't an easy one. The biggest concern for most people is fear of the unknown. What jobs are out there? Which ones am I qualified to do? Nowadays, there are more opportunities out there for school leavers than ever before. Gone are the days when university was the only way to climb the career ladder. Employers now offer a range of apprenticeships, training programmes and internships that enable school leavers to progress in their career quickly.
At Success at School, we have a whole section of our site dedicated to posting the latest school leaver jobs and training programmes.
This post aims to help you explore your career options as a school leaver. We've focused specifically on paid work opportunities, however, if you're also considering non-paying work, take a look at our section on volunteering and work experience.
What do you think of when you think about apprenticeships? Traditionally, apprenticeships were geared towards trades like electricians, plumbers, joiners etc. but times have changed. Last year, the UK government introduced a bunch of new apprenticeships over a wide range of industries. Nowadays, school leavers can apply for apprenticeships in law firms, media agencies, engineering companies and banks, which was unheard of a few years ago.
One of the best things about apprenticeships is that you don't have to give up learning. Almost all apprenticeships programmes offer you the chance to 'earn while you learn' by attending college a few days a week while working.
School leaver programmes
School leaver jobs can be found in a range of industries
Normally organised by large employers, a school leaver programme is specifically aimed at students who have the qualifications to go to university but would prefer to enter into the world or work. School leaver jobs can be found over a range of industries, including finance, IT, accountancy, tourism and retail.
Interestingly, a lot of the school leaver jobs offered as programmes are actually in fact, higher apprenticeships that have been re-branded under a new name.
If you want to find out more about these programmes, check out our post What are school leaver programmes?
It's a common misconception that internships are unpaid. Although some are, there are lots of employers than do offer paid internship opportunities. Similar to work experience placements, internships provide you with the opportunity to experience working in a professional career. They typically last between 3 months and 1 year and can sometimes lead to a full-time, permanent position.
Internships can be competitive, so if you plan on applying for one, you'd better have your CV looking its best. You should submit a cover letter alongside your CV and if you're successful, you'll probably be asked to attend an face-to-face interview.
Work placements can provide a much needed foot in the door
Similar to internships, a work placement last for a specified length of time. Unlike internships however, they usually only last 1-2 weeks and typically aren't advertised by employers.
In order to organise a work placement, you'll need to send of CVs and cover letters on your own, targeting companies that you think may be interested in hiring you for a couple of weeks. Some employers won't pay you for a work placement but some larger employers might, or at the very least, cover your travel expenses.
Although not the best long-term solution, a work placement can provide you with a foot in the door and might be worth considering if you're unable to secure a school leaver job elsewhere.