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What next after GCSEs?

In the past, young people could choose to leave school at age 16 after GCSEs and look for a job straightaway. Nowadays, you are expected to continue with education or training until the age of 18 to help prepare you for your future career.

However, it’s a myth that you have to stay at school! We asked careers expert and Progression Team Leader at Central, Debra Smith, to tell us about the three main routes.

There are loads of options and some of them include paid work. I’ll introduce the main ones below:

1. A levels in a sixth form

After year 11, there is of course the choice of staying on at sixth form or joining a college to study A levels. This is the most traditional and well-known route to carrying on with your education. After A levels you can apply to university, go into work or apply for an apprenticeship (see point 3).

How do I get in? You should apply direct to the school or college you want to attend. 

What about work? Timetables during the week tend to be quite full on, but you could apply for some part-time work to top up your income, perhaps at the weekend. Volunteering is also a great way of getting some work experience.

2. Go to college to study a work-related course

Choose A Vocational Course At College Art Pic

You could choose to go to a further education college to complete a work-related (or vocational) course in a career area you’re interested in. There are thousands of courses to choose from across diverse careers, from hairdressing to engineering and from sport to computing or childcare. These courses very often involve work experience and aim to teach you skills that you can relate directly in the workplace. Even if you have no experience in a given area there is sure to be something suitable.

Vocational courses can also be a good choice if you’d like to go to university after your course – did you know that BTEC qualifications carry UCAS points for university entry just like A levels do?

How do I get in? You should apply direct to the college you want to attend. Check out their website as they are likely to have an online application form and you can browse the courses available.

What about work? There are full- and part-time options, but even full-time courses often have flexibility in the week, so many students combine their study with a part-time job. If it’s more about the experience than the money, why not try some volunteering? This can be a great boost for your CV especially for careers in care, working with children or the health professions. 

3. Earn while you learn with an apprenticeship

Choose An Apprenticeship Image

Another choice that is growing in popularity is to choose an apprenticeship, where you earn a wage working for an employer and work towards a qualification at the same time. You could attend a college or training provider one day a week (we call this day-release) to study, or you might be assessed in the workplace and complete training modules on-the job.

The word apprenticeship was mainly linked to trades such as construction in the past, but now apprenticeships are offered across a massive range of industries, from design and business to education and digital media. Apprenticeships are full-time, but your employer will pay you a wage so you earn while you learn.

If you’re not quite ready for an apprenticeship then a traineeship, which combines unpaid work experience and training for up to six months, could be another option.

How do I get in? There are a number of routes and it’s quite like applying for a job, with vacancies coming up all year round. At Central College Nottingham we advertise apprenticeship places on our website, which is the same for many colleges, or you can check out the national apprenticeships website in the links below. If you approach a college they should be happy to help you find a placement if you don’t see a vacancy that grabs you straightaway.

Useful links

It can be confusing trying to figure out what the best route for you will be. What works for your mates might not be right for you! But don’t worry there’s plenty of info out there if you know where to look. You can always give one of our friendly Advisers a call on 0115 914 6414 if you’re not sure which route to take, or why not check out one of the below links?

Futures are jointly owned by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. They are a not-for-profit provider of jobs and skills advice, training, apprenticeships and support to young people and adults who need help preparing for work or training.

Nottingham Works is a service that can help unemployed people of all ages back towards work and training.

The National Careers Service is a great online resource to help you explore different career pathways and what type of qualifications help towards them. There’s a great section that asks what you love doing now, as that can help you decide what you might be good at in the future!

If you are ready to look for an apprenticeship you can use the national apprenticeships website to search for vacancies.