3 great reasons that demonstrate why university isn’t the only route

In spite of rising levels of debt, university appears to be the destination of choice among parents and teachers of school leavers who are soon set to embark on their next life journey.

Next Tuesday, many thousands of 17 and 18 year olds will be completing their UCAS applications, which will most likely take them down the path towards whichever university they end up at in the next year or so.

And according to new AAT research, recent school leavers say that two thirds of their teachers were most likely to push them towards the university route, along with 59 per cent of their parents.

But while university is entirely correct as a post-schooling option for many, it remains just that – an option, among many alternatives that can set you on track for a successful career in your industry of choice.

At AAT we hear about thousands of stories every year of school leavers who have turned down UCAS applications and higher education in favour of apprenticeships or trainee scheme routes – and still getting off to a fantastic start in an accountancy role. Here’s three of them:

There was a belief that you need to go to university to succeed

Ryehan Amir left full time education in 2016, having completed his first year in sixth form college studying A-Levels. Instead, he took up an apprenticeship in the finance team at water treatment firm ESC Global Ltd, based in Doncaster, Yorkshire, studying AAT Accountancy Qualifications. He gets time off to study and his course fees are fully funded by his employer.

“Taking the AAT route meant that I could gain valuable experience from professional people in accountancy,” said Ryehan, now 20.

“The apprenticeship offered me a debt-free way to get qualified, as well as earning a salary whilst learning.

“At the end of my studies I will have a highly respected qualification behind me, teaching me all the qualities needed to be a successful accountant.”

While Amir, who lives in Scunthorpe, was at sixth form he was on the lookout for an apprenticeship position, but found that not everyone was so keen.“My college weren’t able to offer me much support when it came to me searching and applying for an apprenticeship.

“I felt that, in some quarters, there was a belief that to succeed, you need to go to university.”

My learning is immediately put into practice

Ceara Stephenson was studying for AS-Levels in Finance, PE, Maths and Applied Science and considering what she wanted to do next, when she found out about the AAT apprenticeship route into accountancy.

“I realised that I needed AAT qualifications to become an accountant, which is what I wanted to be,” says Stephenson, now 19.

“I took a job at TaxAssist Accountants in June 2017 at the end of my AS-Levels. I am now an Accounts Assistant, earning a salary and talking to different clients, helping them on their individual financial issues and guiding them to the best solution.”

As part of her training, Stephenson, from Batley, Yorkshire, attends college one day every week, studying for AAT’s Professional Diploma in Accounting.

“My employer is great with supporting my training,” she adds.

“Not only do I attend college each week, but I am encouraged onto other training courses throughout the year so I am kept up to date with new developments in accountancy. Other members of staff also offer helpful advice as they all have their AAT qualifications.

“AAT has massively aided my career as I can understand accounting processes more clearly. After learning it at college then it is immediately put into practice, which really helps me to understand.”

I got some good careers advice at 14 – and never looked back

Tyler Bowers, 22, travels into London each day from his Essex home to Moore Stephens’ office near Barbican (soon to merge with fellow accountancy firm BDO), where he works as a trainee accountant in their outsourcing department.

“I always liked the idea of learning and earning,” says Bowers, who is studying AAT’s Advanced and Professional Diplomas in Accounting as part of his apprenticeship programme.

“When I was 14 years old, I attended a careers fair, and an advisor there suggested accountancy. I knew I wanted to avoid the possibility of getting into debt by going into University, and realised I could instead train while being employed by a finance firm.”

“I enjoy the studying and the accessibility of my tutors, who are available whenever I need them,” he adds.

“As an apprentice, I like the opportunity to work in different departments, and I feel like a valuable asset as I can apply my studies directly into my work.”

Pushed down the uni route – in numbers

  • One in five school leavers believe their parents pushed too hard to get them to make a specific decision as to what they should do after school
  • Only one in eight followed the advice of their parents on what they would do next
  • 33% asked their friends for advice; 24% asked their favourite teacher; 22% spoke to a careers adviser
  • 56% of parents told their children they should carry on to university, while one in seven thought they would benefit from taking part in an apprenticeship
  • 58% thought university might cost more than it was worth to their child, with one in four saying a university degree wouldn’t help them get into their career of choice

Adam Harwood is AAT's Media Relations Manager.

Related articles