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Career Options in Public Sector & Defence: School Leaver

The public sector and defence is, quite simply, whopping in size. But what can you currently so in these areas as a school leaver?

School leaver opportunities in the public sector and defence

- Advanced Apprenticeships

- Higher Apprenticeships

- School leaver programmes

- Military services apprenticeships

- Entry level job opportunities

Accountancy apprenticeships and school leaver programmes – If you’re strong with maths and logic and want to apply it in a career then there are school leaver opportunities in public finance accountancy aplenty. You could work for an accountancy firm or professional services firms, undertaking tasks such as audits for government organisations, county councils or the emergency or NHS services, to name a few examples. Apprenticeships are also available through the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme – This scheme gives you the opportunity to get involved with work in a government department straight after school assisting Ministers and working on projects and policies. If you’ve got at least five GCSEs A* to C and are aged between 18 and 21 then you could be in with a chance here. You could be working for the Department for Education, HMRC or the Crown Prosecution Service – just a few examples! Completion of these apprenticeships will set you up for a career in the civil service. Who said it’s just for graduates?!  

Administration roles – There are a number of administrative roles you could take on in the public sector. You may be eligible for secretarial roles in public sector organisations; anywhere from a school secretary, to the reception desk in a hospital.

Emergency services – There are non-clinical roles, and various frontline roles in each service of the services that you’ll be eligible for with your GCSEs. You’ll need GCSEs if you want become a firefighter and top notch fitness is a must. There is a minimum age to consider, though: you’ll have to be 18 years old before you apply.

You could also become a police officer if you’re over 18-years-old. If you’re over 16, you can apply to become a police community support officer (PCSO). There are no formal education requirements (though you will have to pass written tests), but the main thing about eligibility for these roles is that you’re physically fit. They’re extremely physical and mentally challenging, and you need to be able to cope with it.

You could work as an ambulance technician in the ambulance service, or work in a non-clinical role taking emergency calls and organising logistics for patient transport.

The British Army – The army actually has the biggest apprenticeship scheme in the country. An apprenticeship leading to an NVQ Level 2 is available, as is an Advanced Apprenticeship leading to an NVQ Level 3. If you want to get started in an army career focusing on engineering, information and communication technologies, driving, construction or animal care and don’t want to go on to A-level study or university, then this could be for you! You may also be able to begin officer training with A-levels.

The Royal Navy – You could start to train up as a warfare specialist, communications technician, hydrographic, meteorological and oceanographic specialist or a mine warfare specialist with some GCSEs in the Royal Navy. A-levels can lead you into engineering technician roles.

The Royal Airforce – There’s a variety of options here if you’ve got GCSEs too! For example, you could be a flight operations assistant, photographer, driver, caterer or survival equipment specialist.

Setting the school leaver record straight

The defence sector is a huge advocate of school leaver opportunities, so if you don’t want to go to university but want a career in the military services then there should be almost no problems here. There are tons of career progression opportunities and chances to study for qualifications too; your learning won’t stop if you join up.

Civil service roles are pretty much solely open to graduates, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved with the public sector as a school leaver. There’s the odd apprenticeship available with county councils, but you could also take up a public sector in areas like work for a national park……..

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

Entry into the public sector and defence as a school leaver is possible; particularly if you want to move into the emergency services or life in military service. If you have A-levels or a degree, there’s no denying that there will be a wider variety of career options open to you in this sector in the first instance.

Think about where you want to go with your career. For example, more complex and senior engineering roles in the army, Royal Navy or Royal Airforce will require degree-level knowledge to get started. Steady promotion, study and training is possible to reach those positions through entry as a school leaver, but the route is much more easily accessible if you hold a relevant degree.

But if you want to head into the civil service, don’t feel that you have to be a university graduate. The apprenticeship route can lead into a fulfilling and progressive career too.

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