School Leavers 2021: The Next Steps on your Journey

Finishing school this year has not been easy and many of the restrictions in place in 2020 were still there for those leaving in 2021. The last year of school is always the hardest and amid the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become even harder still. With the difficult and unusual way in which school has finished, it’s understandable that school leavers may not have a clear picture of their next steps. Here are our top tips for your next move forward and making the most of the year to come.

Exam results may be important to you, but they aren’t everything and many successful people take a different path to the traditional route. Similarly, your goals and aims at 16 will probably change significantly as you age, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. At this stage, it’s important to define success on your terms. You may want to find a well-paying job, commit to a personal health and wellness habit or volunteer in your local community. All of these things can be just as important as your career choices, so it’s important to keep this in mind.

Post-16 Education and Training Options

Once you finish secondary school you must stay in education or training until you are 18. There are different options within this, including:

Further Education

Sixth form education may be available at your school or in a separate independent college. Both these types of institution offer a wide range of different courses including A Levels, City and Guilds, NVQs, BTECs and other qualifications. Many further education courses feel a lot like school, but you have more autonomy, and you choose the subjects which you are most interested or passionate about. Further education is usually the first step towards university and higher education.

Apprenticeships and Traineeships

Traineeships are a great short-term solution if you’re trying to find your place in the world of work. They usually last up to 6 months, but they are unpaid and help you develop work ready skills, perhaps in preparation for an apprenticeship or further training. Apprenticeships are more in depth and are usually a commitment of at least three to four years in your chosen trade area and with your chosen employer. Apprentices earn a wage as they work and also benefit from on-the-job and classroom-based training, with a qualification achieved at the end. Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of different trade areas from construction and engineering to management and HR.

School Leaver Schemes

Some companies allow you to begin work with them straight from school and you are still fulfilling your requirement to be in training or education until 18. Usually offered in areas such as accounting, finance, IT and law, they run in a similar way to graduate employment schemes. Most of these schemes are at least three years long and you may find yourself moving around to different locations within the company to get training across different areas of the business.

Which Option is Right For Me?

Deciding what to do when you finish school is a very personal decision. You need to take your time to consider your options and what you really want to do once school is over. You may have a clear image of where you want to be in five years’ times, but if not, do not worry, it’s not the case for most people. Choosing your career path at 16 may feel like the final decision you’ll make but often, you’ll chop and change throughout your life, so there is no need to put too much pressure on yourself. Give yourself a chance to try something new and see how it goes.