A-Levels not enough, say City bosses

 
Marion Dakers
BUSINESS leaders have called for more young people to study for practical qualifications as well as traditional A-Levels to stand out in the increasingly competitive fight for jobs.

Around 170,000 applicants are expected to miss out on a university place this year, despite a record 97.6 per cent of students passing their A-Levels yesterday.

Director general at the Institute of Directors, Miles Templeman, reassured those who have missed out on university, and called on the government to extend its Graduate Talent Pool internship scheme to include school-leavers to cope with the shortfall in university places.

“University is not the be all and end all. Not all courses will confer the financial rewards so frequently cited, and employers place just as much emphasis on wider employability skills as they do on academic qualifications,” he said.

However, students this year have shunned new courses intended to teach practical skills. Fewer than 600 young people passed diploma courses yesterday, introduced in September 2008 as the Labour government attempted to refocus on hands-on training.

“The diploma seems to have lost its way with a tiny number of entries and gender stereotyping evidence in the selection of courses,” said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

City firms such as Fidelity and PwC have taken on more school-leavers this year to help bridge the gap between school leavers and graduate-level jobs.

The CBI also put an emphasis on work experience for young people, suggesting apprenticeships or part-time study for those who have fallen short of full-time degrees.

“Although students may not have planned a gap year, the CBI is urging those that have missed a place at university this year to use the time to increase their employability,” said CBI director of education and skills Susan Anderson.

Birkbeck College, which offers evening courses, saw a 22 per cent rise in 18 to 24 year olds applying for part-time degrees this year, while vocational body City &?Guilds saw 20 per cent more applications.

A GRADUATE’S VIEW
SIMON WARNER

GRADUATING with an English Literature degree from a red-brick university sounds prestigious. But since leaving Leeds this summer, I get the feeling that you need more than an undergraduate degree to get a good job. Far from seeming indispensable, my degree feels like a pre-requisite, a necessity, and certainly not enough on its own.

Yes, some companies have started offering rewarding jobs for people with only A-Levels, but this won’t take the pressure off most of us. The very best 18-year-olds will inevitably benefit from the schemes, leapfrogging those who go to university, but there will still be thousands competing for university spots and dwindling jobs.

And at the other end of the spectrum, a growing number of employers demand postgraduate study or even more. I am getting a lot of encouragement to do further education, for example a master’s in something practical that could help my chosen trade (I'd like to be a journalist). I couldn't do a masters without a degree. Without a degree, though, I could have tried to learn on the job and go from there. Would that speed up my career progress? The impression I get is no.

I had such a good time at university it would be a shame to have missed out – it was an invaluable experience. For those who have the opportunity to go to university, and are wondering whether it’s worth it, I would say go. But on its own, it’s not enough to secure a good job.