With almost half of all school leavers in the UK heading off to university these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this somewhat diminishes the value, intrinsically and extrinsically, of a degree. If you were hoping to use that logic as an excuse to duck out of your education early; sadly, you’ll need to think again.
Far from increased participation in higher education reducing it in value, it’s actually had the opposite effect. Recent analysis indicates that higher participation simply raises the expected base standard of applicants to a far larger range of professions and occupations. As a result, it’s now more important than ever for young people to sufficiently up-skill in order to make a splash in a crowded, competitive, and transient labour market.
One of the most prudent ways to do this is to seek a dual-accredited qualification. This can be done for a university degree (higher education) or indeed for a vocational course at college (further education). A great example of the former can be found at De Montfort University in Leicester. They offer a range of Business-related degrees whereby a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 5 qualification is delivered as part of the package. This means graduates from this suite of courses are better equipped for the workplace because they benefit from a “two-in-one” double-whammy of an academic degree plus a professional qualification, which is highly respected by many employers.
Another way of boosting your credentials is to take action prior to commencing higher or further education. Readers under the age of 18 might consider looking for a suitable summer school in order to enhance academic kudos. There are many available, such as this one based on the Oxford University campus. These summer schools are designed primarily to help 13-18 year olds bridge the gap between school work and the standard that’s expected at a top university. However, they also serve to demonstrate to prospective employers that an individual has gone the extra mile in their pursuit of excellence, thereby making him or her a more attractive prospect.
Such ways of gaining a competitive advantage are now commonplace, so it’s important to diversify. Experience – whether paid or unpaid – in a relevant field will always be crucial. There are a number of ways you can seek to accrue this. Most universities offer degrees studied alongside a paid industrial placement – otherwise known as ‘sandwich degrees’ whereby you extend the customary three years of study to four, with a year’s work placement separating your 2nd and 3rd years on the degree. Equally, the relatively recent legislation around apprenticeships and work-based learning has given rise to proliferation of work-based apprenticeship schemes, in addition to ‘degree apprenticeships’ where you can earn a degree while simultaneously earning money with on-the-job training.
Whatever route you decide to take, always remember to do your own research and seek out advice if you’re not sure of anything. It’s your future; take control of it!