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National Retraining Scheme
July 19, 2019

The national retraining scheme is the government’s new programme to prepare adults for future changes to the economy, including those brought about by automation, and to help them retrain into better jobs.

The national retraining scheme is a manifesto commitment and was announced at the autumn 2017 budget.

The scheme is a part of the government’s industrial strategy for building a country that works for everyone. It’s overseen by a partnership made up of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the government.

To support the development of the scheme, the Chancellor announced £100m in the autumn budget 2018. This is for the continued testing and development of the scheme, as well as delivering the first parts of the scheme to the public.


The national retraining scheme will initially support employed adults who:

  • are aged 24 and over
  • do not have a qualification at degree level
  • are paid below a certain wage threshold – this threshold will be tested with people earning low to medium wages as we develop the scheme

We’re investing in this group of people first as they:

  • have comparatively less access to existing government support
  • are most in need of adapting their skills so they can take advantage of new opportunities

The need for the national retraining scheme

We’re introducing the national retraining scheme to respond to:

  • the changing nature of jobs and the types of tasks people do at work
  • the need for a multi-skilled workforce in the future
  • make the most of the new opportunities that the future economy will bring

The sections below summarise some of the challenges the country will face.

Automation: benefits and challenges

While automation will lead to new jobs, it will also change many of the jobs of today.

Research on the probability of automation in England: 2011 and 2017, suggests that around 7.4% of jobs (1.5 million) in England could be automated or partly automated in the future.

Some jobs will change significantly or will see reduced demand with up to 35% of jobs being at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

Fewer adults undertaking training

Despite the range of learning and training opportunities currently available, the number of adult learners continues to fall.

Barriers to retraining

Our research with adults who have used early parts of the national retraining scheme during its testing phase shows that many people face a range of barriers that prevent them from accessing further learning or training. These barriers include:

  • the financial cost of training
  • training opportunities that do not fit the working patterns of people already in employment
  • poor previous experience of education
Low productivity growth in the economy

The national retraining scheme aims to boost productivity by taking advantage of new technology.

The scheme is part of other measures the government is taking to increase productivity in the economy.

Longer working lives

As people work longer, there will be a greater need to:

  • adapt to changes in the economy
  • consider new careers throughout their working lives
What the scheme will include

The national retraining scheme aims to overcome some of these challenges, and prepare adults for changes to the workplace, by:

  • supporting people already in work to move into better jobs through training and tailored advice
  • complementing existing training programmes for adults
  • encouraging people to develop their flexibility and resilience in the world of work, so they can take advantage of new opportunities

Further details about what we expect the national retraining scheme to offer when it’s fully rolled out are available below.

Tailored advice and guidance

People will be able to access dedicated support from a qualified national careers service adviser.

This will support people while they’re training and looking for new jobs.

Functional skills provision

Training offered through the scheme will initially focus on helping people to access English and maths training.

We’ll develop this opportunity based on feedback from people using the service, so it meets their needs.

Improving English and maths skills will help remove a common barrier that some people face when applying for new jobs.

Online and blended learning

We are developing this flexible approach to training so it fits around working adults’ busy lives.

Online and blended learning will have a broader reach and will mean more adults can access training.

Blended learning is a mix of online and face-to-face provision.

Technical training

We’ll offer in-work vocational skills training, learnt on the job, as part of the national retraining scheme.

Get help to retrain

Get help to retrain is the first part of the national retraining scheme that we have started testing in the Liverpool city region.

It will help people to:

  • understand their current skills
  • explore alternative occupations and consider new roles
  • find the training they need to access opportunities for a broad range of good jobs
Features of get help to retrain

The service will:

  • offer descriptions of currently available jobs and potential better jobs to help people understand their skills
  • identify specific local job and training opportunities to help people develop the skills they’ll need
  • get dedicated support from an adviser to use the service and find training opportunities
Development of get help to retrain

We’ve started testing get help to retrain in the Liverpool city region with a small number of adults who:

  • fit the eligibility criteria
  • have been invited to join the scheme through colleges and other training providers.

The initial version has limited functionality, but this will be scaled up as we test and develop the service.

We’ll expand get help to retrain to other areas across the country, adding more functionality to every stage.

Get help to retrain will be available to all eligible adults in 2020.

Development of the national retraining scheme

Our approach

We’re developing the scheme with a user-centred, ‘test and learn’ approach.

This means we’ll:

  • develop the scheme with the people and businesses who’ll use it
  • start small and scale up products and services following extensive testing with people using the scheme

This approach reduces risks, while developing a national retraining scheme that:

  • uses lessons learned from previous retraining programmes
  • offers value for money
  • is fully tested before we roll it out nationally
  • works for the people who’ll use it
  • can be developed to meet employers’ needs and expectations
  • offers the flexibility to make changes quickly based on feedback from people using it
  • can be changed to meet the future needs of the economy
National retraining partnership

The national retraining scheme is led and overseen by the national retraining partnership which includes:

  • government departments – led by the Department for Education (DfE), working with HM Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
  • Trades Union Congress (TUC)

The national retraining partnership aims to help businesses and workers:

  • provide feedback to develop the national retraining scheme effectively and meet users’ needs
  • adapt to the changes the future economy will bring
  • be competitive in the future economy

Our research

Extensive research with potential users has helped us develop the first part of the scheme. This research has allowed us to meet the needs of employed adults who are eligible to use the scheme, as well as employers.

To do this, we conducted research with:

  • over 340 working adults, including people with assisted digital needs (over 90 of these workers took part in a remote test of the service)
  • 90 people representing around 35 employers across 7 different locations
  • 17 careers advisers

We’ll continue to use this approach with employers and working adults as we roll out the scheme.

Views from people who will use the scheme

From our research with people currently employed and who are eligible to use the scheme, we have found that:

  • most people will only consider training if there is a clear route to a new job
  • the current training and job landscape can be overwhelming
  • most people would not sign up for training without further information and guidance first
  • negative perceptions were common, for example, poor previous learning experiences
  • the term a ‘better job’ means different things to different people
  • online training often meets people’s needs for flexibility, but many people lack the confidence using it
  • existing online training is often targeted at the highly-skilled and motivated
  • existing online training only meets users’ needs to a limited extent as it represents only a small proportion of adult training provision
  • people would pay or co-fund training if it led to a job
Employers’ views

When speaking to employers, we found that they value:

  • soft skills, such as good communications skills and a strong work ethic
  • a scheme that was integrated with existing recruitment processes
  • apprenticeships, but many have expressed an interest in a shorter, more flexible retraining offer
National organisations

We’ve worked with a range of national representative bodies at conferences and events, including:

  • Association of Education and Learning Providers – national conference, June 2019
  • Unionlearn – annual conference 2019 (as well as a range of regional events across the country)
  • The Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network May 2019
  • The Association of Colleges – including through their 2018 annual conference
Regional organisations

We’ve held meetings across the country so that our research is:

  • representative of local areas
  • captured a full range of views and experiences
  • highlighted the strength and depth of existing provision

To do this, we spoke with:

  • regional representative organisations, including chambers of commerce, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and other representative groups.
  • training providers
  • awarding bodies
Specialist advice

We are consulting behavioural change specialists on a research project that will provide clear recommendations for:

  • getting eligible adults to consider retraining for a better job
  • encouraging them to use the national retraining scheme to help them achieve this goal

We are taking forward a range of pilots and initiatives to inform the scheme. A summary of this work can be found in National retraining scheme: associated projects document.

Working across government

While DfE is taking the lead in the design and delivery of the scheme through the national retraining partnership, we are working across government to make sure that the national retraining scheme complements existing initiatives and services that have been proven to work well.

This is one part of a wider strategy of government reforms which include:

Bill Introduced to Make all Jobs Flexible by Default
July 19, 2019

Advertising all roles as flexible could help close the gender pay gap, assist parents to share childcare, and better support older workers say experts

A bill requiring employers to make all jobs flexible by default was introduced by Conservative deputy chairman and MP for Faversham and Mid Kent Helen Whately in Parliament on 16 July and was given approval to go to a second reading on 17 July.

Whately said that unless employers have a sound business reason for having specific working hours all jobs should be advertised as flexible.

It would help close the gender pay gap, assist parents to share childcare and help businesses retain staff, Whately explained.

“The 40-hour five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives,” she said.

She added that a lack of flexible working reinforces gender stereotypes around work:

“At the moment too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility. This entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers,” she said.

“As a result men don’t get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make – if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home.”

Ella Smillie, head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society, gave her backing to the bill.

“We urge MPs to give Helen Whately’s bill the support it deserves. Ensuring that employers offer flexible working would open up new jobs to a whole raft of people who want to work alongside carrying out caring responsibilities or simply achieving a better work/life balance,” she said.

“There are also clear benefits to employers: offering flexible working to employees creates a stronger, loyal and more diverse workforce, which pays dividends.”

Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said that the move could also be invaluable in supporting older workers, who may find it difficult to stay in work because of health problems and caring responsibilities. “We welcome calls to consider making flexible working the default for every job. The most common reasons people leave work before state pension age include managing caring responsibilities or health conditions, and flexible working is effective in helping balance these with staying in work,” he said.

“Office for National Statistics data out today shows older workers continue to be the fastest-growing age group, so we can’t afford to wait on this. There were a quarter of a million more over-50s in work last year,” he added. “But we know many people struggle with inflexible working practices that can result in them leaving work before they are ready. That’s bad for them as individuals – affecting their earnings and social connections – and bad for the UK economy as employers lose out on the skills and experience older workers can bring.

“We need to move towards flexible working being the default, and for employers to take action to support everyone to work in a way that suits them best.”

Joeli Brearley, founder and director of Pregnant Then Screwed, said it’s clear that flexible working is better for people and the economy: “This is good for our economy, good for business and good for humans. We know that 96% of employers already offer some form of flexible working, but only 11% of jobs state flexible working options. This means those with caring responsibilities, or other needs that require flexible working, feel unable to apply for positions that would otherwise make good use of their skills and expertise. It means we are not making the best use of our labour force and a lack of good-quality flexible working is the key cause of the gender pay gap,” she said.

“I don’t think there is a single employer that would argue that flexible working isn’t good for productivity. Time and time again the research shows this, we just need a culture shift – led by the government – to encourage employers to think about how a job can be done flexibly before they recruit.”

ESFA Update further education: 17 July 2019

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.

ESFA Update further education: 17 July 2019
ESFA Update academies: 17 July 2019
ESFA Update local authorities: 17 July 2019
Information for further education
Reminderassurance certificate for providers and employer-providers who deliver adult provision, including apprenticeship and traineeships and subcontract ESFA funding
Reminderreformed English and maths Functional Skills
Information2019 to 2020 funding grants and contracts
Information2020 T Level providers who are planning to deliver the T Level Transition Programme from the 2020 to 2021 academic year
Informationinteractive post-16 school census tool
Informationmaths and English condition of funding tool
Informationindustry placements – capacity and delivery fund (CDF) for 2020 to 2021 for 16 to 19 providers in receipt of CDF in 2019 to 2020 academic year
Informationchange in payment dates from August 2019
Informationindividualised learner record (ILR) change management webinar
Information for academies
Actionadd your member and trustee email addresses to get information about schools
Reminderbudget forecast return 3 year
Informationupdate to guidance on the teachers’ pension employer contribution grant
Informationlocal authority financial transparency consultation
Informationpublication of asbestos management assurance process (AMAP) report
Information2020 T Level providers who are planning to deliver the T Level Transition Programme from the 2020 to 2021 academic year
Informationindustry placements – capacity and delivery fund (CDF) for 2020 to 2021 for 16 to 19 providers in receipt of CDF in 2019 to 2020 academic year
Information2019 to 2020 funding grants and contracts
Informationinteractive post-16 school census tool
Informationmaths and English condition of funding tool
Informationcondition spend data collection (CSDC) reports for 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018
Information for local authorities
Informationupdate to guidance on the teachers’ pension employer contribution grant
Informationlocal authority financial transparency consultation
Informationpublication of asbestos management assurance process (AMAP) report
Information2020 T Level providers who are planning to deliver the T Level Transition Programme from the 2020 to 2021 academic year
Informationindustry placements – capacity and delivery fund (CDF) for 2020 to 2021 for 16 to 19 providers in receipt of CDF in 2019 to 2020 academic year
Information2019 to 2020 funding grants and contracts
Informationinteractive post-16 school census tool
Informationmaths and English condition of funding tool
Informationcondition spend data collection (CSDC) reports for 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018

Published 17 July 2019

University? Traineeship? First Job? What’s Your Post-Exam Plan?

The following is a news story published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Opportunities to gain an extra qualification, go to university, get on-the-job experience or start your career if you’ve just finished your exams.

Whether you are looking to gain an extra qualification, go to university, get on-the-job experience or start your career, there are lots of exciting opportunities for your future. Find out more here.

On the Job Experience

Prepare for the world of work with a traineeship

Traineeships are available for 16 to 24 year olds and are an opportunity for you to gain real work experience, acquire new job skills and improve your English and maths, if you need to. They can last up to 6 months and can be tailored to help you get ready for a job or apprenticeship.

Find a traineeship online.

Earn while you learn with an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience, a salary and a chance to train while you work.

Find out what you need to do to become an apprentice, what careers are available and what employers are offering them.

Further and Higher Education

Further education

You can continue your studies after secondary school through a range of further education courses, available in different subjects at different levels – ranging from basic English and maths to Higher National Diplomas. Further education also includes technical and applied qualifications, which will provide you with skills and training to specialise in a specific technical job.

Search for further education courses.

T Levels are new courses coming in September 2020

T Levels are brand new, 2-year courses designed with employers that will be equivalent to 3 A Levels. As the next step after GCSEs, they combine classroom theory, practical learning and a 3-month industry placement to give young people the technical skills, knowledge and experience needed to get a job in a skilled profession.

The timeline slider below uses WAI ARIA. Please use the documentation for your screen reader to find out more.00:00:00

Continue your studies in higher education

You can find and apply for most higher education courses online. If you don’t get a place on your chosen university course you can apply for other courses through Clearing.

Find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September.

Career Opportunities

Find a job with our careers portal

There are a range of great jobs available online, and we can help you find one through our dedicated jobs website.

Visit Find a Job to search based on location, sector, salary and more to find your perfect fit.

Learn about different careers through My Way In

My Way In shares stories and advice from people in work and employers in a range of different fields. You’ll find tips to help you broaden your experience and the number of jobs you have access to as well as information about the industries which are likely to have vacancies in the future.

Visit My Way In to find out more about jobs in sectors you may not know about.

Visit My Way In in Welsh.

Support vulnerable adults with a career in adult social care

Adult social care attracts all kinds of people with one thing in common – a desire to help make a difference every day. If you’re the sort of person who treats others with respect, listens to their needs, understands their emotions, and is warm, kind and honest, then social care could be the career for you.

Check out our Every Day Is Different page to learn more about a career in adult social care.

Discover a career in STEM

The government is working across industry and engineering institutions to support initiatives across the UK to give young people an inspiring first-hand experience of engineering.

Find more resources on the Engineering – Take a Closer Look campaign website.

Embark on a rewarding career in the public sector

There are a host of rewarding jobs in the public sector that you can get involved in. From teaching to nursing – the public sector is looking for people like you.

For more information please visit the following websites:
NHS jobs
Get Into Teaching
Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Prison Officer Jobs
Civil Service Jobs

Get careers advice and inspiration

Need further advice on what to do next? Our career services provide free and impartial careers information, advice and guidance.

In England, visit the National Careers Service

In Scotland, visit Skills Development Scotland – My World of Work

In Wales, visit Careers Wales

In Northern Ireland, visit Careers Service Northern Ireland.


Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, gain skills and experience, and contribute to your community. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Visit Do-it.org, a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.

Learn new things and take part in the National Citizen Service (NCS)

NCS is a life-changing programme open to all teenagers aged 15 to 17 in England and Northern Ireland to discover who they are and what they can do. If you want to boost your UCAS statement or CV, meet incredible people, get your voice heard and have a lot of fun while you’re at it, then NCS is for you.

Find out more information about NCS.

International Conference 10th October 2019
July 18, 2019

Plans are well underway to host dmh associates first International Conference in central Birmingham, England on 10 October 2019. 

The aim of this one-day conference is to bring together practitioners, academics, policymakers and technology innovators from the UK and further afield to focus on career development policies, research and practice that makes a difference to individuals, communities and our economy.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, international expert in careers policy, research and practice
  • Dr Reineke Lengelle, Assistant Professor interdisciplinary studies at Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada and researcher at The Hague University of Applied Sciences
  • Emeritus Professor Hubert Hermans, Dutch psychologist and Creator of Dialogical Self-Theory
  • Liane Hambly, co-author of ‘Creative Career Coaching’ and inspirational educator of career development professionals
  • Professor Graham Attwell, international adviser on the use of ICT, labour market intelligence (LMI) and learning analytics
  • Nick Chambers, CEO, and Dr Elnaz Kashefpakdel, Head of Research, Education and Employers, London leading on international research and developments in primary and post-primary schooling.

Highly interactive workshop sessions include the following themes:

  • Digital advancements in national and European careers services
  • Career coaching, philosophy and narrative counselling
  • Career guidance, vocational and technical education
  • Schools and employer engagement work in primary and post-primary education
  • Changing identities in a modern world, including higher education developments
  • The evidence-base underpinning careers support services
  • The future of work and lifelong guidance in the workplace.

Delegates attending will receive a resource pack including materials and activities that can be applied in practice with copies of all presentations. To enable us to plan well for this forthcoming conference please click on this link below to register for a place at the event:


The full programme will be published shortly. 

Bandura’s Careers Theory
July 17, 2019

Watching what others do and the human thought process influences the careers we choose in Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory.


Albert Bandura is well regarded for his Social Cognitive Theory. It is a learning theory based on the ideas that people learn by watching what others do, and that human thought processes are central to understanding personality. This theory provides a framework for understanding, predicting and changing human behaviour. 


You need to pay attention to learn something new. The more striking or different something is (due to colour or drama, for example) the more likely it is to gain our attention. Likewise, if we regard something as prestigious, attractive or like ourselves, we will take more notice. 


You must be able to retain (remember) what you have paid attention to. Imagery and language pay a role in retention: you store what you have seen the model doing in the form of verbal descriptions or mental images, and bring these triggers up later to help you reproduce the model with your own behaviour.


At this point you have to translate the images or descriptions into actual behaviour. You must have the ability to reproduce the behaviour in the first place. For instance, if you are watching Olympic ice skating you may not be able to reproduce their jumps if you can’t ice skate at all! Our abilities improve even when we just imagine ourselves performing.


Unless you are motivated, or have a reason, you will not try to imitate the model. Bandura states a number of motives, including:

  • past reinforcement
  • promised reinforcement
  • vicarious reinforcement.

Albert Bandura has had a large impact on personality theory and therapy. His action-oriented, problem-solving approach appeals to those who want to make changes, rather than simply philosophise.


  • Boeree, Dr George C, Shippensburg University, ‘Personality Theories: Albert Bandura’, accessed August 2015, (www.ship.edu).
  • York University, Canada, ‘Theories used in IS Research: Social Cognitive Theory’, accessed December 2008, (www.istheory.yorku.ca).
Apprenticeships: July Parents’ Pack
July 17, 2019

The new July Parents Pack is here and includes tips on how to help your child maximise their summer, parent FAQs, how to prepare for results day, apprentice article on mental health support, apprenticeships with Travis Perkins and so much more! 

Further Education Trust for Leadership: A Series of New Publications Launched
July 16, 2019

The Further Education Trust for Leadership has had six new publications launched which are each available on the FETL website to be downloaded as a PDF.

Two of the publications can be accessed below. Other topics include:

  • Colleges as Anchors in Their Spaces: A Study in college leadership of place
  • Crossing Boundaries 2: The FE Sector and Permeable Spaces
  • Adult Community Education: Supporting place and people: Characteristics of success
  • Learning at Life Transitions: Supporting learners returning to work or preparing to retire


Apprenticeship v University: What Course to Take?

Remember that moment when the school careers adviser leant over the desk and asked: “So what are you planning to do next?” 

It’s a daunting decision when you’re 17. 

A university degree costs tens of thousands of pounds, although the evidence suggests it can boost your earning potential later. 

On the other hand, an apprenticeship lets you earn as you learn, but life gets serious pretty fast. 

Apprenticeships are shaking off a reputation for low-paid drudgery and there are more higher-level apprenticeships coming on stream. But competition for the best opportunities is as fierce as it is for the top university places.

So if you’re leaving school, does it make sense to aim for one of those coveted places? Or are you missing out if you don’t go for the campus experience? Recent apprentices and graduates have shared their experiences with us.

Presentational grey line
‘School was very anti-apprenticeship’

When Matt Carpenter left school at 17, a lot of his classmates were aiming for university. He could have joined them.

“I was the only person in my class who didn’t go,” he says. 

Matt Carpenter (r) and fellow Merchant Navy apprentices at sea
At 21 Matt Carpenter (r) is already qualified to drive ships and tankers

Instead, he took up a three-year apprenticeship with the Merchant Navy, spending half his time at college and half his time at sea on oil and gas tankers, passenger ships and bulk carriers.

“School was very, very anti-apprenticeship – even when I had the place, they were very against it. Up until the last day, they were still asking, ‘Do you really want to do this?'” 

For him, the choice was clear: no student debt and pay of £175 a week. Now, at 21, he’s on an annual salary of £37,000 tax-free and qualified to drive the world’s largest ships.

He admits the social life didn’t compare to what his friends were up to, though. “When you’re at sea, you’re quite cut off. There’s no internet. You’re working every day.”

Presentational grey line
‘It made me who I am’

Amy De Friend, 25, did a degree in fashion promotion and communication. She now works in recruitment, but doesn’t regret her decision to study first.

“I went to university, because at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Amy started her degree the first year that fees went up from £3,000 a year to £9,250.

“My parents said: ‘Do you really want to spend £9,000 on this?'”

And at the end of the three years, she discovered that to get into the fashion industry, she would still have to take unpaid internships. So she worked for Carphone Warehouse instead.

Amy De Friend
Amy De Friend says one of the new experiences she gained through university was learning to scuba dive

Amy accepts she could probably have got the recruitment job she’s in now without a degree.

“I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time,” she says. “The experience I had was fantastic, it helped me develop as a person.”

At university, Amy joined a diving club and qualified as an instructor, something she wouldn’t otherwise have tried.

“I don’t think it’s all about getting a job. It’s about what you gain from the experience. It made me who I am.”

Presentational grey line
‘I was itching to start work’

Nick Martin, 20, has just been head-hunted for a £22,500-a-year job in sales. He puts that down to his work experience as an apprentice with a telephone networking equipment company.

“Before I got my last job, I went through a lot of interviews. Every single agency and company loved the fact I had done an apprenticeship, because it shows you know what it’s like in a fast-paced office environment.”

Nick Martin cycling
Nick decided he could pursue his ambitions as a semi-pro cyclist alongside an apprenticeship just as easily as through a university team

At 17, Nick was “just itching to get into work”.

The apprenticeship scheme he joined was new and he felt he was a “guinea pig”, often left to get on with things unsupervised, which meant a lot of responsibility very quickly. 

“By the time most people my age come out of uni, I’ll have had three to five years’ experience. On the flipside, I haven’t spent that time getting the extra qualifications.”

“At the time, I didn’t have doubts. Now, to be honest, I think about it a bit more. The main reason for that is a bit of ‘Fomo’ – fear of missing out – missing out on the social aspect of being at uni. You get to live in halls or housing with flatmates. I’m still living at home.”

Then there’s the snobbery. “I still get that feeling from some people – people I know who are at uni who think they’re better – there can be a smugness. But there’s nothing guaranteed. They’ll have a degree, but they’ll still have to find a job, which is hard.”

Presentational grey line
‘To learn about something I loved was brilliant’

Jenny Willbourn, 29, joined engineering firm Atkins after gaining undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in geography. The firm has a well-established apprenticeship programme, but she says that wouldn’t have been the right route for her.

“I believe there’s something valuable in academic study – the opportunity to understand a particular area of knowledge.”

Jenny Willbourn at her desk
Jenny Willbourn joined Atkins after studying for five years at university

“To push your communication skills is one thing, but to critically evaluate – that’s a skill that university teaches. I value that as second to none.”

She works in a highly specialised team at Atkins looking at spatial data, including mapping the locations of badgers and bats as part of the HS2 planning process.

“I needed a degree to tell me what the options were and give me the skills I now have. For me, the ability to hone my skills at an academic level was very important.”

But above all, she enjoyed the experience: “To learn about something I loved was brilliant.”

Presentational grey line
‘I feel really proud of myself’

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn, 19, had a place at Durham University to study philosophy and Russian. She rejected it in favour of a management consultancy apprenticeship with accountancy firm PwC.

Moving to Leeds on her own just a few days after her 18th birthday was nerve-racking, she says. But PwC has helped provide a community for her in and out of work. She’s joined the firm’s netball team and teaches English to refugees. She loves the work, managing change in the public sector, adult social care, local government and schools.

“I feel really proud of myself in terms of what I’ve achieved.”

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn
Joy Shepheard-Walwyn turned down a university place to take up a PwC apprenticeship

She thinks university can be about putting off adult life a little longer. “My friends are out partying a lot, but I’m earning a salary.” 

“I don’t feel I missed out. I just went it about it a different way.” 

By Lucy HookerBusiness reporter, BBC News

Careers England Newsletter: 142
July 16, 2019