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Next steps after school: employability should be top priority

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It’s been a year like no other, but despite challenges such as social distancing, transitioning to online learning and the cancellation of exams, thousands of young people have had their hard work recognised and received their A-level and other course results. Many will choose to go to university (either straight away or perhaps deferring for a year). Others will opt for an apprenticeship. For those who haven’t decided yet, choosing what to do next can seem a daunting prospect.

When it comes to managing projects, there have traditionally been three main things to consider: cost, time and quality of outcome. The same factors apply when it comes to making decisions about education and careers, but our advice to people facing this choice is to prioritise quality of outcome. When it comes to planning for careers, that ultimately means ‘what will make me most attractive to employers?’

Choosing a path that enhances employability will give the best long-term outcomes for career development. This doesn’t just mean long-term salary prospects, but also job satisfaction and sense of achievement. Focusing on employability opens doors and creates option.

So what are the employability pros and cons when it comes to choosing between a university degree and an apprenticeship?


  • A university degree in project management (or a related subject) gives a more open-ended choice for job opportunities after graduation. Knowledge and skills learned aren’t ‘restricted’ to one particular industry or sector, which could limit options on which jobs are applied for.
  • Some employers will require successful applicants to have a degree, so a university education can open doors an apprenticeship can’t.
  • University courses give you access to tutors and careers support that can be a valuable source of information when it comes to finding job opportunities after graduation.
  • Going to university also promotes life skills and soft skills such as time-management, multi-tasking and self-reliance. These aren’t just useful, but actively valued by employers.


  • An apprenticeship can be a ‘head start’ on the career ladder. It offers a direct route into paid employment and lays the foundations for a career early.
  • Apprenticeships are about learning and developing on the job; about actually ‘doing’ a job. Completing an apprenticeship is a clear sign to employers that the person is not only qualified, but also capable and experienced.
  • Learning on the job gives apprentices detailed knowledge of their specific industry sector, which can be a strong advantage when applying for future jobs in the same sector.
  • Apprenticeships, like other roles, have mentors, buddies and networks to gain knowledge and skills beyond the job itself.

Of course, there are other options too. For example, heading straight into the workplace, starting an internship, or just taking some time out to reflect. Whatever decision is taken, it’s important to consider employability in order to get onto – and climb – the right ladder.


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