School leavers to skip college for City?

Forget expensive university: go direct into well-paid work from A-Levels. That is the gist, more or less, of skills minister Matthew Hancock.

Hancock says university is not right for all, and high quality apprenticeships should carry as much professional lustre as university. He's right, but this skills tack comes late in the day.

City cut-thru

"University is not for everyone," Hancock says. "There is no reason why you can't reach exactly the same qualifications, without the degree, starting on-the-job training in an apprenticeship from day one."

Accountancy and legal executive training courses can commence from the age of 16. The Government is currently exploring options with London BPP Law School about a potential apprenticeship scheme that could see school leavers qualifying, eventually, as solicitors.

It's a pragmatic stance and there will be critics who will say that such options could undermine university options, particularly from lower-income households. But for many, university is simply not right.

Jobs pressure

Especially with fees for some that can exceed £50,000 in total. The number of students entering university slipped by 57,000 in the last year - almost a 10% fall on 2011, according to UCAS figures. Then there's the increasingly challenging job market.

Recent research from Warwick University's Institute for Employment Research found that 40% of graduates remained in non-type graduate posts 30 months after leaving university.

Although apprenticeships have been increasingly talked up by the Government, many apprenticeships remain patchy. The recent National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS) has been criticised for focusing on numbers rather than quality.

But the shift in thinking to higher quality apprenticeships that skirt university is welcome - for some.
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