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Career Options in Engineering: School Leaver

Are you the kind of person who enjoys pulling things apart to see how they work? Better still, can you figure out how to put something back together again?! Or do you have a knack for designing things? If you’re itching for hands-on learning right now, it sounds like you could really thrive in a school leaver option in engineering. Here are the nuts and bolts of it all…

School leaver opportunities in engineering

There are both practical and technical options when it comes to school leaver opportunities in engineering. There’s the chance to work in a number of different companies, from local businesses to huge construction firms or famous names in the automobile industry for instance, in civil, electrical or mechanical engineering. Whether it’s manufacturing or design and development of technical equipment, vehicles or even bridges or buildings, engineering school leaver opportunities have the lot.

Advanced Apprenticeships can allow you to follow different engineering pathways within a company, either technical or practical. You’ll need to have GCSEs (or the equivalent) to be eligible for these types of apprenticeships, with at least one or two engineering related subjects, or a BTEC Level 3. An Advanced Apprenticeship will provide a fully-supported work-lead introduction to work in engineering, plus the opportunity to study for a qualification which can be a step up to further progress.

Higher Apprenticeships are for A-level applicants (usually with at least one engineering related subject like maths or physics). These programmes can last around four or five years, and include work on live engineering projects at the firm, learning all about the industry and gaining crucial skills whilst studying for an industry qualification or even a degree part time.

Setting the school leaver record straight

Some people might view an engineering apprenticeship as not carrying nearly the prestige and career progression opportunities that a graduate role can offer. Simply not true!

Modern apprenticeships must adhere to a government framework, providing a progressive blend of on-the-job training, vocational and/or professional qualifications and pay. So you’ll know that all accredited engineering apprenticeships are going to give you a real hook into an engineering career, arming you with sought-after vocational qualifications or even a degree in some cases to take you further in the industry and your career beyond your apprenticeship. There’s nothing to hold apprentices back from working their way to the top of a company, just as a graduate could. And they’re probably going to have a lot more work experience in the first instance!

Though engineering is still stereotypically viewed as a male-dominated industry, there’s nothing to stop females from undertaking engineering apprenticeships too; and many do!

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

Engineering in particular has long-been an industry that pioneers apprenticeships. There are quite a few to choose from, and the government is pumping more funding into helping employers in this area to provide more employment and training opportunities over the coming years.

If you feel you don’t want to take on the student fees of the university route and want to get stuck in right away, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take on the apprenticeship route. An Advanced Apprenticeship can lead onto a Higher Apprenticeship, which could lead onto degree-level qualifications in the long term anyway! If you have A-levels (or the equivalent), you’ll have the opportunity to apply for Sponsored Degree Programmes in the industry if you still want to achieve a degree. This option will take longer than the traditional university route (around five years or more), but this is because you’ll be working at the same time, all the while gaining valuable work experience. Some companies may even sponsor you to do your university degree with the precondition that you work for them for a set period of time after you graduate.