Navigating the New Norm
There’s a big shift going on in the minds of school-leavers that brings us back to the classic debate that consumes the minds of young people across the nation: university v apprenticeships. Less than half (46%) of school-leavers now aspire to head to university (Cibyl, 2022), highlighting that a larger group of students are exploring alternative routes than ever before. Coupled with a 10% rise in degree apprenticeship sign-ups in the past year (Prospects, 2023), it’s important that early career employers are checking in with the reasons that school-leavers’ heads are being turned towards a more hands-on way of furthering their education.
If you're eager to gain valuable insights into the minds of school-leavers as they embark on their post-school journey, you've come to the right place. We’re going to delve into the factors that shape school-leavers' decisions together, demystifying their perspectives on the changing landscape of this commonplace debate. Let's step into the shoes of these aspiring young minds and gain an understanding of what’s making this shift.
Lessons from the Pandemic
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reverberated through all aspects of life, including students' perspectives on higher education. This experience has made school-leavers, like many others, adapt and rethink their plans. Two thirds of school-leavers feel like they have enough information on the university route to make a clear and informed decision (Cibyl, 2022), but they are continuing to shift away and explore other options.
Alongside the educational element of university, the social aspect and ability to broaden your network with new people has always been a big draw for school-leavers across the country. The independence and freedom to find themselves and their future career pathways that typically came with the university experience was significantly limited during the pandemic. With companies removing their in-person work experiences and social distancing limiting their networking abilities, school-leavers became more woke to the realities of an university degree. This restricted experience, alongside the hefty debt, became a much less appealing opportunity and this seems to be trickling down into current school-leavers perceptions.
Although we’ve waved goodbye to a pandemic world, the impacts still remain, making students more open-minded to avenues where they can gain the same qualifications with more experience and less debt.
In-Person Matters: Valuing Real-World Experiences
From your time in the working world, I’m sure you’ll understand the significance of meaningful connections and real-world experiences. And school-leavers feel the same in this area. As a result of the pandemic, many of the school-leavers who will be applying for your apprenticeship opportunities spent their prime school years in isolation or hybrid learning environments, leaving a lack of in-person work experience which they would have previously gained through school initiatives. Although the digital era has undoubtedly transformed education, school-leavers are reaffirming the importance of in-person interactions.
71% of school-leavers believe in-person career experience has a higher influence on their future decisions, compared to virtual ones (Cibyl, 2022).
In your pursuit of top-notch talent, consider the impact of immersive experiences on school-leavers' choices. Companies that offer hands-on apprenticeships or experiential learning programs stand out to students looking to blend digital convenience with genuine human connections. This also can reaffirm to future talent that they’re committed to investing in young people, rather than filling a resourcing gap. It's also just as important to consider the evolving preferences for flexible learning options. Embracing hybrid learning models, online courses, and part-time study opportunities can open doors to engaging with students who seek educational options that cater to their changing needs and circumstances.
Balancing Dreams and Stability
Money really does make the world go round in the eyes of school-leavers (doesn’t it for everyone?!) Regardless of their career route, aspirations and desires, the finances behind it play an important role during the decision-making process. Recent changes to the university loan payments means that school-leavers heading to university from September 2023 and onwards will now pay back almost double of their loan, compared to previous students. This is a crucial change for aspiring university students across the board, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
With these changes and the ever-growing desire for a secure and sustainable future leads many school-leavers to prioritise opportunities that offer more than just a paycheck and avoid the cost that university inevitably brings to the table. As early careers employers, it’s important to keep in mind that apprenticeships are increasingly seen as a gateway to both financial independence and career growth. Providing apprenticeship opportunities that balance earning and learning can be a key draw for students seeking financial stability from the outset of their careers. A way to bring in the right talent for your opportunities is to stay transparent with the salaries you’re offering so school-leavers can accurately assess whether this opportunity is the right one for them.
Finding your Future Apprenticeship Talent
After taking the previous factors into consideration, it paints a clearer picture to whys surrounding the perspectives of school-leavers as they take their first steps towards their future careers. As you engage with this promising talent pool, understanding their aspirations, and adapting to their changing needs will be your key to success. Embrace the evolving landscape, offer flexible opportunities, and showcase the value of in-person experiences. By tapping into tomorrow with a fresh perspective, you'll be well-equipped to guide these aspiring young minds towards bright and rewarding futures inside and outside of your companies.
Good luck, and happy talent hunting!