Sometimes it can seem like university is the only option when you leave school if you want to kick start your career and join a professional industry. What if we told you there was another way? Well there is! Why not consider a school leaver scheme?

So, what are they?

School leaver programmes are schemes that you can join straight out of school. They offer training and, in many cases, the chance to gain a professional qualification while you are earning. Schemes vary in length and content but they usually offer the chance for you to gain work experience with real clients while you are being trained.

This means that you will quickly be brought up to the same educational level as a graduate entering the profession but you will already have relevant experience working within the company and will have interacted with their clients. Effectively you have the chance to ‘learn while you earn’.

School leaver schemes usually last between 4-6 years and give you a real insight into your chosen profession. If you know what you want to do, a school leaver scheme could be the ideal way to get there straight away without spending more time in education.

Am I eligible?

The clue is in the title when it comes to school leaver schemes. They are primarily for those who have finished school. Some schemes accept leavers who have finished their GCSEs whereas others prefer their candidates to have A levels or an equivalent.

Scheme entry requirements vary between companies so if there is a particular company or sector you are interested in it is worth checking what their requirements are. For example, both PwC and KPMG ask for ABB at A level plus at least a B in GCSE maths and English.

Some companies do allow people who have not recently left school onto their schemes. These may be people who did not go to university and therefore are not eligible for a graduate scheme but would like to start a career in the profession. Again, this is something that varies between schemes and can be found out by visiting a company website or contacting them directly.

What companies offer school leaver schemes?

Schemes can be found in a variety of sectors, below are some of the common ones they are found in.

Many of the big companies within these sectors run school leavers programmes. For example, in banking, accountancy and finance all of the ‘Big Four’ firms (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) all run schemes. As do companies such as BDO and Grant Thornton.

Are they not the same as apprenticeships and internships?

Apprenticeships and school leaver schemes are often confused with each other. They are similar in the way that they both offer training and qualifications to help you succeed in your chosen profession. School leaver schemes tend to be offered by larger companies and aim to provide participants with a higher level of qualification such as a degree or post-graduate qualification.

Apprenticeships are usually shorter and offer a stricter structure. Many apprenticeships can be undertaken straight after GCSEs and they are offered in a range of different professions.

School leaver schemes are often considered to be a ‘high school graduate scheme’ as they offer what would usually be found on a graduate scheme but from an earlier start and for a longer period of time.

Internships are a lot shorter in length to school leaver schemes and do not offer any professional qualifications. They are often used as a way of gaining relevant experience in a chosen profession. Internships can be both paid and unpaid.

Sounds good to you?

School leaver schemes are a great way to get straight into earning money while gaining valuable skills and qualifications that will set you up for the future. Don’t forget that competition can be fierce on these schemes and it is up to you to show what you have got and prove that you are the right person for the job. Companies invest a lot of money into training school leavers and providing them with qualifications so you need to show that you are a worthwhile investment.

Give yourself the best possible chance by checking out our advice on CVs, Applications and Interview tips.

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