With university fees on the increase, many young people are looking at alternative routes into their chosen careers. Should employers now be looking to school leavers instead of graduates for their next generation of managers?
University is no longer a financially viable option for most young people and it's fair to say that it hasn't been a guaranteed route into the majority of graduates' chosen careers for some time. Recent research commissioned by the AAT and the CEBR revealed that an estimated 55% of this year's university leavers will graduate into unemployment or unskilled roles.
While many young people might feel a door has been closed to them with university fees being hiked up, it's actually a really exciting time for ambitious school leavers and businesses alike. We are currently noticing a big trend with employers recruiting school leavers over graduates through apprenticeship schemes. Proctor & Gamble for instance have adopted this approach, solely recruiting school leavers for their European Finance Centre, with lots of other companies of varying size and scale following suit.
Why? Firstly, school leavers tend to have a strong idea about the career they want and therefore are determined to work hard to achieve their career goals rather than it just being something they 'fell into'. School leavers on apprenticeship schemes have a strong sense of pride and willingness to learn. They don't come with huge expectations and are aware how lucky they are to be earning, training and working at the same time. They also tend to have a good work ethic and are used to a school routine – this lends itself well to the office environment.
School leavers also have a strong sense of loyalty to their employer and apprentice scheme. They invest in the business and the business invests in them. This sense of worth instils confidence in the school leaver and as they climb the career ladder they inevitably add more value to the business. School leavers are not just stop-gapping before something better comes along.
Not only can apprenticeship schemes be more cost effective, but all businesses across all sectors must appreciate the benefits of cherry picking highly motivated young people.
While of course I understand that there will always be some professions which will always need graduates of a certain calibre, I do think there are still many businesses nationwide that haven't considered hiring anyone other that a graduate and it's these employers who should think again.
I'm excited by our apprenticeship programme and the new school leavers joining us this autumn. They have the right foundations that our business needs. If they work hard, maintain a positive attitude and are supported properly, then they will go far. In this fragile economy all employers should wise up and see the potential of a school leaver, knowing what a sound and solid investment they can truly be.
Jane Scott Paul has been Chief Executive of the AAT since 1997. Under Jane's leadership, the AAT has grown to an overall membership of 120,000 with an influential voice in the education, training, development and support of accounting technicians worldwide. She was awarded Honorary Membership of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in 2003 and the OBE in 2008 for services to the accountancy profession.