Gap Year…Gap Career

Going to University isn’t just about getting a degree education. In fact, for many young adults it’s as much about the ‘University experience’; social activities, being a ‘fresher’, making lifelong friends, exploring sporting pursuits, living on their own and making their own decisions…freedom!

In a normal year between 5% and 6% of individuals with University offers end up deferring their places by a year. This is driven by a range of alternatives such as the desire to travel, or to spend time volunteering, to take a break from the pressure of studying or even to earn some money to pay for a more comfortable University experience. But 94% still take up their places as planned. In a normal year.

University

Gap Year…Gap Career

Going to University isn’t just about getting a degree education. In fact, for many young adults it’s as much about the ‘University experience’; social activities, being a ‘fresher’, making lifelong friends, exploring sporting pursuits, living on their own and making their own decisions…freedom!

In a normal year between 5% and 6% of individuals with University offers end up deferring their places by a year. This is driven by a range of alternatives such as the desire to travel, or to spend time volunteering, to take a break from the pressure of studying or even to earn some money to pay for a more comfortable University experience. But 94% still take up their places as planned. In a normal year.

It seems clear that this year that is going to be far from normal

  • Many universities have already announced that they will be holding lectures online for the first term, or even for the entire year as in the case of the University of Cambridge and others.
  • For more practical degrees such as medicine, music and engineering it is less than clear quite how they might even translate to online delivery.
  • Young adults may feel reluctant to move to big cities away from their family and live in shared accommodation.
  • Social distancing may put a very different spin on all those fresher year social and sporting activities that sounded so fun.
  • Important networking opportunities are likely to be far harder to engage with.
  • It certainly makes students and their parents question the value of the tuition fees being charged for what might amount to months of watching a computer screen.

Increase in deferred University places looming

There is increasing talk in the media that deferral rates will be much higher in 2020, such as these two BBC articles article 1 / article 2.

On 20 May London Economics published a report (link here) assessing the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK Higher Education enrolments which makes very interesting reading. They asked 516 predominantly UK-domiciled respondents whether they would still intend to go to University in Autumn 2020 under two scenarios:

  1. If the University they had applied to or received an offer from was operating as normal and running all classes in person with few social distancing measures

Result – Only 86.7% still intend to go to University in the Autumn even if they are operating as normal

  1. If the University they had applied to or received an offer from was not operating as normal and were delivering many classes online, restricting university activities and enforcing social distancing restrictions

Result – An even-lower 72.0% still intend to go to University in the Autumn if they are not operating as normal.

And just last week it was reported here that UCAS said that over 65,000 students had still not made their minds up with deadline day for final submissions looming on 18th June.  

This may present employers with an opportunity to recruit a calibre of talent they wouldn’t normally be able to attract.

The big question that occurs to me is “if all of these young adults decide not to go to University this September…what will they do?”

It seems unlikely that gap years to go travelling will be feasible, or even appealing. For similar reasons voluntary work may be a less practical option. It is also the case that many youngsters are in a worse financial position than expected due to losing part-time work or summer jobs due to the crisis.

So, what’s the solution….

Well, can a gap year become a gap career?

Employers are in a unique position this year to offer these capable, ambitious youngsters an opportunity of a lifetime:  “Try out a career for a year, there’s a lot going for it:

  • earn some proper money
  • gain valuable work experience
  • make useful professional connections,
  • maybe achieve a qualification or certification for your CV,
  • you never know you may love it and stick with it!
  • and if you decide it’s not your long-term future then take up your deferred Uni place next year and spend the money you’ve earned on a great Uni experience.”

For students receiving estimated GCSE, A-level or degree grades this year, successfully completing the ‘real exams’ of the early stage of a practical accountancy qualification also gives a tangible recognition of ability when some academic awards may be viewed with a degree of suspicion by employers. For example, AAT level 3 (which can be achieved within a year of leaving school or college by a motivated student) can be worth up to 56 UCAS points which is better than an A grade at A-level, and that might mean getting into a better University in 2021!

AAT level 3 (which can be achieved within a year of leaving school or college by a motivated student) can be worth up to 56 UCAS points which is more than an A grade at A-level.

The door is still open

I know that a lot of the clients that I work with are still planning to recruit and train accountancy trainees this Autumn and still have vacancies to fill. They are offering sponsored training for a globally-recognised accountancy qualification such as AAT, perhaps under an apprenticeship which complements practical workplace bookkeeping and accounting knowledge with recognition of crucial career skills such as teamworking, communication, negotiation, problem solving and decision-making.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that Apprenticeships are a second-class option. Some of the highest-calibre students that I see training to be Chartered Accountants are apprentices, and a large number of graduate training programmes are increasingly being done under level 7 apprenticeships. Cutting out the debt of studying for a degree, and becoming an apprentice straight from school is a great way to accelerate knowledge, skills and career progression from an age that has rarely been possible in the past.

And what’s even more appealing is that studying for a level 7 accountancy qualification can give the option to also achieve a Batchelor’s degree and even a Master’s degree along the way by completing some extra modules, so students who don’t ever go to University don’t need to miss out.

Building core accountancy skills

The AAT qualification itself is used to train many school leavers in the first couple of years of their finance careers, and is seen by many employers as the most robust way to build the core bookkeeping knowledge and fundamental practical workplace accountancy skills that they need their trainees to develop, far more credible even than accountancy degrees.

Some of my most successful students are school leavers who started with AAT and have gone on to great things in their career, exceptional individuals like Chief Financial Officer  Stefan Payne and Managing Partner Vicky Wainwright. Click the links to see their stories.

And from the employer’s perspective even if the student does decide to take up their Uni place in 2021 they may well be an ideal graduate candidate 3 years later, already familiar with the organisation’s people, culture and ethos.

Now is an ideal time for would-be Uni starters to see if there might be an interesting ‘gap career’ for them, maybe even in accountancy and finance.

Accountancy Summer School – Online for 2020

Every year FI centres across the country invite local students to come along to one of our Accountancy Summer Schools.  Students can find out more about our industry and the careers available within it.  Despite the current Covid-19 pandemic, we are still planning for our Accountancy Summer School to go ahead! We will be using our ‘Virtual Classroom’ which we’ve been using successfully to teach our own students in the current circumstances.  Click here to find out more and book your Free Place!

Value of a degree….

It has become increasingly clear in recent years that university isn’t always the best option for everybody who wants to start a professional career – watch Gareth’s video from 2017 below to find out some interesting facts that still hold true today.

 

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