A-Level results day is fast approaching. Thousands of young people are eagerly awaiting the results that will lead to them taking the next big step in their lives. Many will be making the choice to go to university - though they may not know which location they will be heading to next month until they have received their results. Others however will be thinking about undertaking an apprenticeship or vocational qualification as an equally valid route into the workplace, and perhaps one that more people should consider.
Vocational qualifications are an option that is misunderstood by many. Recent research by The Student Room has found that only 11% of young people feel 'fully informed' about apprenticeships, while 40% say they have received 'very little' or 'no information' about them. Not getting enough information on apprenticeships and other vocational qualifications can lead many young people to sometimes incorrectly believe that university is the only route for them if they want a successful career. However, it is more than possible to start a career in highly-respected professions such as law, public relations or accounting by doing a vocational qualification or apprenticeship.
With student satisfaction with their overall university experiences falling, vocational qualifications make for a compelling alternative - indeed nearly half of graduates have told AAT that they would have had better career prospects if they'd chosen vocational qualifications over university. Many employers are looking at the vocational route as a good way of getting staff that are well trained and who will be able to get to know the business over time and be a good fit. The government has also set a target for businesses to create three million new apprenticeship positions before the year 2020, so there will be more and more opportunities for anyone wanting to do an apprenticeship in the next few years.
Students who go down the vocational qualification route instead of going to university after their A-Levels can qualify faster than those who are doing a degree. This is because when studying vocational qualifications, you learn in a practical, real-world environment where you can apply your knowledge immediately, and get to know the role properly. This can also be a better way of learning for those who may not have been as academically focused and who don't enjoy learning from a book all the time.
University is a worthwhile experience and undoubtedly remains the best choice for many students. However, with tuition fees now set to rise to up to £9,250 in 2017, many may now be wondering whether they can afford to take on debts necessary to afford those fees. With a vocational qualification, you will be earning a salary while you learn, meaning that you could be saving money rather than building up debt. In addition, a recent study by the Intergenerational Foundation has recently found that there may no longer be a 'graduate premium', where university graduates earn more over a lifetime than non-graduates. This is because any extra earnings are wiped out by the increase in tuition fees and increasing costs of being at university. The loss of the graduate premium should make people think about what the reasons they are going to university are, and whether the potential debt will make it worth it.
Thinking carefully about your future after you receive your results is essential. Some graduates end up with regrets because of the route they took after their A-Levels - and indeed nearly two thirds of those we spoke to told us if young people were better informed about the extent of the debt university education brings, then many would opt to take a vocational route instead. To guard against any future regrets, you need to ensure that the path you decide to take is the right option for you, your personality, and your future goals.