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Further Education College

What are the choices at 18?

At 18 there are many choices available to young people.

They can choose one of the following:

  • A higher education course at a college or university
  • An apprenticeship – there are 4 different levels
  • A vocational qualification at a further education college
  • A Gap Year
  • Get a job (preferably with opportunities for training).

For a parent/carer trying to help and advise their child, it can seem like a confusing range of options.

Here’s more about each option with links to additional information if you want to explore further.

Higher Education at 18

There are lots of different higher education (HE) level courses available. HE level is any qualification which is at Level 4 or above and this includes apprenticeships as well as part time and full time study.

You can find out about different types of HE level courses here.

Check out Careerpilot's qualification ladder to find out more about HE qualifications

You can find out about Higher and Degree Level Apprenticeships

Higher Education (HE) level qualifications are attractive to employers because they show higher level skills, which is what many employers are looking for. HE level qualifications can be very job focused like a doctor, architect, etc. or might be focused on an academic subject eg. history, geography, etc.

For some jobs a young person will need a certain degree but many employers are keen to employ people with any degree, and some offer specific ‘graduate opportunities’, which are open to all students with a degree, whatever the subject.

To do a HE level qualification a young person will need to have certain qualifications and grades, these can vary a lot depending on the course and the HE provider - from the top universities requiring very high grades to a Foundation Degree at a college asking for lower grades.

The UCAS site has information on all higher education courses in the UK, you can search by a subject, course type or provider.

Careerpilot has a whole section about Higher education at 18+.

Choosing to do an apprenticeship at 18

An apprenticeship offers young people a way to learn a job through real work experience, building up knowledge and skills, gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time.

An apprentice will spend most of their time in the workplace gaining job-specific skills, but they will also be supported by a specialist learning provider to build up their knowledge and qualifications.

Apprenticeship training can take between one and four years to complete and the length of an apprenticeship will depend on its level, the industry and the skills and qualifications a young person has already.

A young person can progress to an apprenticeship at 16 or 18, at a level to suit their needs and experience. Young people can go on to do an apprenticeship after GCSEs, A Levels, BTEC Nationals or another apprenticeship. 

The site has a vacancy search tool to help people find an apprenticeship.

Doing an apprenticeship after University

If your child wants to do an apprenticeship after their degree they have two options. They can apply for a post graduate level in the area of their degree or they can apply at a graduate level in a different field to the degree. As long as the apprenticeship involves a significant amount of new learning or updating skills, they are free to apply.

Find out more about apprenticeships on Careerpilot.

Choosing a Gap Year:

This is usually something young people do as a ‘gap’ between their studies. Usually after Level 3 qualifications (A Levels, Level 3 BTECs) and before they move onto higher education. There are many ways to spend a Gap year if your child is good at planning and works out what they want to get out of the experience before they start it. 

A Gap Year could involve work experience, paid work, volunteering, moving away from home or gaining new skills or undertaking online courses, as well as travel. It can be a great way for young people to gain more life experience and also give them more time to make decisions about apprenticeships or degree course subjects.

Students wishing to go on to higher education after their Gap Year will often/need to have secured a place on a course in Year 13, which they then ‘defer’ until after their Gap Year. This can be a good way to ensure they have a secure plan for after their Gap Year.  Always check with the university if they accept students after a gap year. Careerpilot has more about Gap Years

Choosing to get a job:

Many young people who are 18/19 feel ready to get a full time job and have a good idea about the types of jobs they would like to do. If they have been doing a vocational qualification or an apprenticeship they will already have qualifications related to a job area or, after A Levels, have a package of qualifications to offer to employers. Although, job hunting can be hard going, there are many companies looking to employ students who are 18/19. Whatever job they apply for it is worth reminding them to check out the career prospects on offer and also opportunities for further training.

Careerpilot has information about 19 different job sectors which includes detailed profiles of hundreds of jobs, you can see the job profiles by looking in the Types of Jobs section in each Job Sector.

Careerpilot also has a section about job hunting

Things you could do to help your child make their post 18 choices:

  • Suggest they look at the Careerpilot ‘Find a Provider’ tool to find out about providers and what they offer, if they want to study or train in the South of England
  • Encourage your child to use the Careerpilot Post 16 Skills Map Tool which will help them map their skills, they can then see their skills alongside the skills required for a job in job profiles.
  • If they are not sure about which job or job sector they are interested in then they can explore the Job Sectors in Careerpilot or do the Job Sector Quiz. 
  • If they need advice they can contact an adviser at the National Career Service (this is free).
  • Encourage your child to book an appointment the school or college careers adviser.

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