For some students opening their A-level results last Thursday it was a day of jubilation. Those managing to secure places at university will now spend the summer excitedly anticipating the beginning of Fresher's week and the next chapter of their lives. However for others, this may be a time of considerable uncertainty. As news emerges on the increasingly competitive nature of clearing and demand for university places continuing to outstrip supply, it is more important than ever for students to consider all the options available to them.
Alternatives to university such as professional qualifications, work-based learning and apprenticeships are no longer just a back-up plan: rather, they are a potential fast track to sought-after employment. Sasha Hanau, a Senior Marketing Executive at Search Laboratory, currently studying for her Professional Diploma in Marketing, is one of the increasing numbers of high achieving students who are opting for alternatives to university. After securing 4 A's and a B in her A/AS-Levels Sasha embarked upon a Law degree at Leeds University, however after quickly realising it was not the right choice for her, she decided to leave university in order to pursue employment in a marketing agency alongside studying for professional qualifications. Today Sasha admits that her decision to leave full-time education was a brave one, but one she does not regret, "Rather than do a degree for the sake of it, I chose to leave the course in order to gain on the job experience. For me, this was the right decision and the experience I gained in my first few years of my career was extremely valuable. Studying for my professional qualifications has underpinned this work experience and contributed to my professional development - something which is valued by my employer."
Students need to ensure that they make the right decision for them and, with £9,000 fees and a very challenging jobs market; this year's school leavers should really take time to evaluate the different opportunities available and be mindful of how their choices will affect their future employability.
The current climate means that future job prospects need to be high up the agenda for students, whichever route they choose. Employers increasingly want to see proof of relevant skills and workplace experience - not just academic study. Businesses want to employ people equipped with the right skills to do the job, and professional training and qualifications provide this assurance.
Striking up a relationship with the professional body within their chosen career is a wise first move for students whether they are planning to go to university or not. Professional bodies can help at each stage of every career path, providing support, training and trusted professional qualifications as well as offering insight to those who may not yet be certain of the career they wish to pursue.
Vocational training and academic study are also both valid choices, and it's easier than ever to combine them. The Chartered Institute of Marketing have partnered with 20 universities across the country to deliver the new Multi Award Pathway (MAP) programme, which allows students to study for a professional qualification alongside their degree. Collette Allen, who studied for a professional qualification alongside her degree and now works as a marketing consultant, said: "My professional qualification has been brought up as an advantage in a number of job interviews, and it's an excellent tool to use to stand out in an extremely crowded job market. The qualification also shows that I'm someone who is constantly seeking to develop my skills."
To all those who collected their results on Thursday I must of course say a big congratulations. After years of hard-work it is now time to consider the full range of exciting opportunities available to you. Take time to contemplate your next step and remember that professional bodies form all sectors can serve as an invaluable source of support, advice and insight when choosing your route to employment.
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