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19th of August 2018
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61% of A-Level school leavers feel that careers advice is skewed towards going to university, with most students uninformed of vocational courses. The government seems to be succeeding in their objective to push young people into Higher Education, but is this really beneficial?

For some individuals, the choice to go to university is the only option, with some professions like medicine and law mandating degree education. But for careers like accounting having a degree is no longer a required route. In fact, the latest UK Graduate Employment Survey found that 60% of graduates are in jobs that do not need a degree.

Whilst vocational qualifications have traditionally been seen as less valuable than a university degree, times are slowly changing. Over the past few years, there have been significant reforms in vocational training to ensure that the training provided is responsive to the needs of employers. The government have introduced ‘Trailblazer’ apprentices where businesses can create bespoke training that suit their industry needs, thus improving the quality of their apprenticeship training.

Students doing vocational training have the opportunity to gain a qualification and work simultaneously, with work reinforcing what is studied. There are certain skills that can only be developed in a work environment. This includes the ability to work with different colleagues, and interpersonal skills from dealing with difficult clients. AAT’s research found that 88% of employers think a candidates’ skillset is the most important factor when considering who to hire. So those studying vocational courses can be a step ahead of graduates, due to their experience.

Students should also keep in mind that going down the more vocational route doesn’t necessarily stop them from gaining a degree. Government figures reveal that 20% of Advanced Apprentices enter higher education within a few years of completing their apprenticeships. Completion of the AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting (Level 3) is equivalent to 160 UCAS points, if individuals wish to progress to degree education. With more than 30 UK universities and higher education institutes offering exemptions to AAT professional members enrolling in accounting and finance-related degrees.

With tuition fees now up to £9,000 per year, 24% of graduates aged 25 – 27 have double the amount of debt as the national household average at £20,000. Therefore, vocational qualifications can give individuals the skills without burdening them with student debt. The earning potential of 16 – 18 year-olds studying vocational courses with on-the-job training, such as AAT, is £8,688 per annum. So those doing vocation qualifications have more financial independence.

With rising tuition fees and job uncertainties, the decision to study for a degree or take up vocational training is an increasingly important deliberation for many young people. With shifting demands in the UK job market, an apprenticeship qualification can be valuable and lucrative for both the employer and employee. Whichever career route is taken; it is important that young people realise the alternative options available to them in order to make an informed decision.