It is a common misconception that the only route into the insurance profession is via university. However, this is simply not the case. School leaver schemes are becoming more popular across all sectors, and the accountancy profession is not exempt from this.

So what is a school leaver scheme? How do they work? And, how can you apply for one?  In this article, we tell everything you need to know about school leaver schemes.

What is a school leaver scheme?

A school leaver scheme is a programme that you can join straight out of school, once you have completed your A-Levels. They offer full training and, in the case of insurance school leaver schemes, give you the opportunity to gain professional qualifications. Essentially, it’s a way to ‘learn while you earn’.

Schemes vary in length, though they are often longer than a graduate scheme, but they offer the chance for you to gain work experience with real clients while you are being trained. This means that you will quickly be brought up to the same educational level as a graduate entering the profession and you will also have relevant experience working within the company.

School leaver schemes will usually last between 4-6 years and will give you a real insight into the insurance profession. If you are sure that a career in insurance is right for you, then a school leaver scheme could be the ideal path to take without spending more time in education.

School leaver scheme vs. apprenticeship vs. degree apprenticeship; what’s the difference?

The chances are, you have heard of apprenticeships before, and not just from the reality tv show. So how do they differ from school leaver schemes?

What is the difference between a school leaver scheme and an apprenticeship?

Both programmes have similar aims, and that’s to equip you with the qualifications and training to succeed in your chosen sector, in this case it’s the insurance profession. They both involve working for a company whilst gaining a qualification, combining on-the-job training with classroom learning so you can achieve a professional qualification.

Traditionally, school leaver schemes were offered by larger companies and were proposed as a school-graduate scheme, rather than going to university. Apprenticeships, on the other hand, were traditionally saved for more vocational career choices and were much more focused on on-the-job training. School leaver schemes are more commonly found in the accountancy profession, whereas the term apprenticeship is used more in the actuarial and insurance professions.

Another difference between school leaver schemes and apprenticeships is that apprenticeships will follow a national framework, whereas school leaver programmes are offered by an individual company and therefore, they set the framework. Therefore, when looking at school leaver schemes, it is important that you do your research on each company to make sure that the programme offers the qualifications you want and need to progress.

In regards to how long each scheme takes, apprenticeships can take anything from a year to four years, whereas a school leaver scheme could take up to six years, depending on the qualification that you receive at the end of it.

What is the difference between a school leaver scheme and degree apprenticeship?

While school leaver schemes and apprenticeships are quite well know, you may not have yet heard of degree apprenticeships. This is because they were only launched in 2015 and so there aren’t as many opportunities available as there are on school leaver schemes and apprenticeships.

However, employers such as Aviva are offering degree apprenticeships to school leavers, so it’s worth mentioning in this article.

So what are degree apprenticeships? Degree apprenticeships are offered by some universities in which students work towards a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of the apprenticeship. During a degree apprenticeship, students are employed throughout the programme but divide their time between attending university and working. Degree apprenticeships can take between three to six years to complete, depending on the course level.

Am I eligible for a school leaver scheme?

School leaver schemes are exactly that, they are for school leavers. Some schemes accept leavers who have finished their GCSEs whereas others prefer to have A levels.

If you are looking at an insurance school leaver scheme, then they often require at least a grade B in Maths at GCSE. However, it does vary from company to company and from scheme to scheme so we recommend doing your research before applying.

Some companies may allow people who have not recently left school onto their schemes if they are looking to go into the profession. However, it will be for those that did not go to university and therefore will not be eligible to apply for a graduate scheme. Again, this is something that varies between schemes so we recommend doing your research first.

What are the pros and cons of a school leaver scheme?

What are the advantages of a school leaver scheme?

There are plenty of reasons to consider a school leaver scheme, for example:

  • You go straight into the world of work
    • Instead of going to university and delaying entering the world of work, a school leaver programme will mean you jump straight into working while you study.
  • You gain experience
    • By the time your peers graduate, you will already have had three years of experience working in your chosen field, experience which will be invaluable when the time comes for you to move jobs.
  • You get the best of both worlds
    • With a school leaver scheme, you don’t have to sacrifice your education for work, and vice versa. You get to study while working and earning money.
  • It is an alternative to university
    • Some school leaver schemes have entry requirements to rival Russell Group universities and therefore are a genuine alternative to university.
  • You avoid student debt
    • If you don’t like the idea of being lumped with a considerable amount of debt after three years at university, then a school leaver scheme is a no brainer. Not only do you not have any debt but you could also earn over £22,000 on a school leaver scheme.

What are the disadvantages of a school leaver scheme?

While there are many advantages, there are also disadvantages, and it’s important you consider both before you apply. For example;

  • You will be taking on a lot of responsibility
    • Starting your career at eighteen can be daunting, and the responsibility of an adult job straight out of school could take a toll on your wellbeing.
  • You won’t experience the university lifestyle
    • For some, being part of a young adult is having the opportunity to go to university and have the lifestyle to go with it. Going straight into a school leaver scheme means you miss out on this experience.
  • The competition is tough
    • With rising university fees and employers increasingly turning to school leavers as opposed to graduates, competition for school leaver schemes is tough. Read our top tips on how to write a school leaver CV here.
  • You could find it harder to change career in the future
    • If you do a school leaver scheme as opposed to a degree and you decide a few years down the line that your chosen career is not the one for you, you may find it harder to change careers as you will not have a degree.

School leaver schemes are a great way to get straight into earning money while gaining valuable skills and qualifications. If you want to jump straight into working in your chosen industry and work towards professional qualifications but without the university debt then a school leaver scheme may be perfect for you. However, competition is fierce, and you will be taking on a lot of responsibility early on in your career. Whether you decide a school leaver scheme is right for you or not, hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what they are, how they differ from apprenticeships and the pros and cons of school leaver schemes.

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