Lots of people view A-levels as qualifications to set you up for University. While there are many other options available, there is some truth in it as they are the standard qualification required to be accepted into Universities. A University degree normally takes between three and four years of studying, focusing on a specific subject. While some degrees, such as medicine or law, are designed to get a specific job at the end of them, others provide the necessary skills that could be useful for a broad range of career options.
University is a chance for your child to become more independent, meet new friends and have lots of new and exciting experiences. However, if your child is planning on going to University, they should be prepared to knuckle down and take responsibility for their education – they won’t be chased as much for assignments or told off for lack of attendance as they would in school. They should also be prepared to manage their finances and remember to budget; something they may not be used to doing.
Some students will want to take a gap year to see some of the world before they go to University or start full-time employment. Where they go will depend on what kind of experience they hope to achieve. However, it’s not just a case of boarding a plane and jetting off to somewhere exotic; many say that a gap year is only as good as the planning and preparation that goes into it.
Your child may be looking to volunteer overseas, in which case they should learn as much as they can about the role they will be undertaking, as well as the country and its culture. Some will want to spend their gap year as an English teacher and earn a TEFL certification. Like with University, budgeting is also crucial when travelling, and your child should work out what they can afford. A round-the-world trip can cost anything up to £5,000. They are likely to be thinking extensively about their itinerary for when they get to their destinations, but it’s equally as important to think carefully about what they need to do before they leave. For example, making a checklist of things they need (a suitable back pack, appropriate clothes etc.), taking out the correct insurance, dealing with visas well in advance and remembering to get any vaccinations needed.
Work experience can be a great way for your child to learn the ropes at a particular job and immerse themselves in a working environment. This will allow them to get a feel for whether this type of role is for them, and can teach them invaluable skills. In addition to this, it will enhance their CV, meaning that they are more likely to be offered a job afterwards, or will have the edge over candidates after leaving University.
Before starting a placement, your child should think about their current skills, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. They will then be able to consider exactly what they hope to achieve from the placement, and how it will augment their existing skills and develop new ones. Your child should also see it as a networking opportunity and a way to ‘get a foot in the door’. It’s a good idea for them to do their homework about the company before starting and look on the ‘meet the team’ section to get a feel for their new colleagues. A LinkedIn account is also a great way of networking and means they are more likely to stay at the forefront of their colleagues’ minds in the years to come.
If your child decides to go straight into work, playfully referred to as the “University of Life”, their A-levels will demonstrate their capabilities to any potential employer. The rest of their CV should also be strong, so it’s a good idea for them to get work experience while still at school/college or during the school holidays. If your child does have a part-time job during this time and has proved themselves, there is a chance they could become a full-time employee and move up in the organisation after completing their A-levels.
On the other hand, your child may be a budding entrepreneur and decide to set up their own business after finishing their A-levels, rather than working for someone else. While this is not an easy option, it can be extremely rewarding and allows them to take control over their career.
Your child shouldn’t forget that education and training are still available to them in the future, if they decide they would benefit from either of these options further down the line.
Apprenticeships have seen a revival in recent years and the government has put a lot of money behind promoting initiatives. Some extremely innovative companies have apprenticeship schemes that could give your child the opportunity to experience hands-on training as well as achieving a vocational qualification at the end of it.
As with work experience, it will give your child the chance to network and make valuable contacts. An additional advantage to apprenticeships, however, is that they are paid. The government sets a minimum wage for anyone taking part in apprenticeships, giving your child the chance to earn while they learn. While there are various apprenticeships available throughout different sectors, they usually involve learning a trade skill, the majority of which are found in the manufacturing, manual labour and creative industries.
Whichever route your teenager decides upon, your support and advice will be invaluable to them. For many teens this will be their first steps into adulthood and independence, and there will be lots of lessons to learn and mistakes to make. The above list of options are not the only ones available to them and are certainly not the be all and end all- there is always the chance to change direction later in life and opportunities often present themselves in the least likely of places. Keep an open dialogue with your teenager to help them figure out the best choice for them right now, and don’t stress too much about their decision.
For further reading we recommend the following manuals and guides to support your teenager.