Frequently Asked Questions

My son/daughter is thinking about an apprenticeship. Aren’t they just for mechanics, builders and hairdressers?

There are apprenticeships available on a huge range of careers, including those which might be considered as traditionally academic. Apprenticeships are available in accountancy, law, business as well as care, engineering, hospitality, IT, retail and many more. An apprenticeship will offer your son/ daughter the opportunity to get a nationally recognised qualification whilst getting practical experience. They will also be earning whilst they learn. Apprenticeships are available at a number of levels and can be equivalent to A-levels or a degree.



What A-level subjects should I encourage my son/daughter to do? He/she hasn’t got a clue what to pick.

If your son/daughter has some career ideas they should explore what subjects are essential and desirable for those careers. If he/she is thinking about going to university, some courses have specific A-level entry requirements so investigate those. If he/she is thinking about applying for a School Leaver Scheme, the employer may request specific subjects and predicted grades from applicants.

If your son/daughter is unsure about their longer term plans, the best advice is to encourage them to keep their options open by choosing subjects that will offer the maximum number of career options. Subjects like English, maths and sciences are required for a number of careers and Higher Education courses. Employers also often ask for these subjects as an indicator of a good general education.

Remember that A-levels aren’t the only option for post-16 learning and training. Vocational qualifications and work-based learning such as apprenticeships should also be considered as they provide excellent pathways to many careers.

What are UTCs (University Technical Colleges) and will it help my son/daughter’s career to attend one?

UTCs are government funded schools for 14-19 year olds which have been developed in partnership with universities and employers. They specialise in delivering learning and skills development in technical and scientific subjects. If your son/daughter is keen to pursue a career in a sector such as engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, product design, digital technologies or the built environment, it is worth exploring what a UTC could offer them. Their links with employers and universities provide strong progression opportunities in those sectors. UTCs do not charge fees and tend to take students from multiple local authority areas. Students can attend a UTC from age 14 or from age 16 and the number of UTCs is growing. 

My son/daughter has no ideas about what career he/she wants to do. Where do we start with finding options?

The first step is helping them to understand that there is no pressure to choose a career now. After all they may find themselves doing a career in the future which doesn’t even exist yet! The important thing is that they understand how what they are doing now at school will benefit them in the future. If they want to start exploring options you should encourage them to understand themselves first. What do they like doing both inside and outside school? How does what they do in those activities relate to careers? Supporting them to get some work experience would help then explore what their strengths are. If the school doesn’t support work experience during term time you can explore options during the holidays. But please contact the school for advice. 

I want to make sure that my son/daughter chooses a course which has good career prospects. What should I do?

It’s always good to look at industries that are growing and employing more people, but remember that there are new careers emerging all the time so you son/daughter might find themselves doing a career which doesn’t yet exist. Part of your son/daughter’s decision making, when choosing a career,

should be an evaluation of how many opportunities there are in the sector. Some careers are highly competitive. If your son/daughter is interested in a career that is competitive don’t rule it out but encourage them to develop a backup plan. If they are choosing a course they should look into what

previous students have gone on to do.

My son/daughter knows what career he/ she wants to do. How do I find out what the best route in is?

For most careers there are a number of entry routes. Some routes are based on achieving qualifications. Others are based on experience. Many people do not follow a ‘typical’ route into a career. Many employers have structured graduate, school leaver and apprenticeship programs in which they take young people on. Equally they will recruit people who have gained experience elsewhere. Your son/daughter could also research employers that recruit for the careers that they are interested in, to find out what schemes they offer for new entrants.

Is work experience a good idea?

Most young people will get enormous benefit out of some interaction within a work environment. Being in a working environment and interacting with people who they haven’t encountered before helps them to develop skills and can help to confirm whether or not it’s the type of environment that they want to work in. Schools aren’t required to provide work experience for pre-16 students but it is a good idea. Some students organise placements themselves during school holidays. If your son/daughter is looking for an employer to provide a placement it’s worth remembering that most

employers operate a range of job roles. For example, if he/she is interested in computers, don’t just look at IT companies. Organisations of all sizes and types use technology and will probably have an IT function.

What can I do to help my son/daughter get the skills that employers want?

Many employers state that they feel that young people are not ready for the workplace. Schools, colleges and universities provide knowledge and skills but there are many other ways that young people can develop and demonstrate their skills. Encourage your son/daughter to engage in activities that will require them to learn and grow skills that will help their future career plans. If they are interested in a career which will require them to write, they could create their own blog on a topic that interests them. This will help them to get valuable experience of writing interesting content as well as giving them something to show potential employers. If they are interested in working with children, they could volunteer with a group such as Brownies or Cubs. If they are interested in website design they could create their own website. Practice interview skills with them, you can search on the internet for the most regularly asked questions in interviews and practice the answers.