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Parental careers advice leaving students in the dark about alternatives to university

The survey of 3,383 university students and 807 parents looked at how students were influenced by their parents around their choice of university, degree course and future careers. 

Of the parents surveyed, 70 per cent said they encouraged their children to go to university and of those, 43 per cent felt that a degree would improve their children’s long term career prospects more than an apprenticeship, school-leaver programme or by joining the job market after college or sixth form. Only 27 per cent of students surveyed said their parents had discussed alternatives to university with them.

Julie Stanbridge, head of student recruitment at EY, comments, “The survey results would suggest that for many parents, university is still seen as the default option and the safest route to achieving career success. Whereas in reality, entering the workplace straight after A-Levels can play to the strengths of highly-focused students and provide them with a real head-start in their careers. 

“The quality of professional training on offer also means that school-leavers are not at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining recognised qualifications, compared to their peers at university.” 

Chris Phillips, director of research at GTI Media, added, “It’s clear from the research that parents are increasingly active influencers and it’s vital that universities and employers develop innovative strategies to reach students by engaging with their parents.”

The majority of students surveyed felt that their parents were having a strong influence over their career decisions. 56 per cent had parents accompany them on open days or university visits and 69 per cent of students said their parents tried to influence their choice of university. 54 per cent of students also said their parents tried to exert influence over their choice of course or career.

Students are also very comfortable with their parents’ right to influence them. 66 per cent of those surveyed think it’s the right thing for parents to do and only 7 per cent think it’s wrong.

When it comes to discussing alternatives to universities, the survey revealed that information isn’t always easily accessible. 76 per cent of parents said they did not know where to find online information about alternatives to university and 63 per cent said they were reliant on career advisors and careers events as their only source of information.

Stanbridge comments, “Parental advice has always been important when making these key life decisions and many students will feel that their parents have their best interests at heart. But there is clearly a real need for greater engagement between parents, schools and employers to ensure that they are equipped with all the information they need to advise their children about the breadth of opportunities available.”

“Employers could consider exploring opportunities to get involved with parent’s evenings, establish closer relationships with career advisors as well as encouraging former students to return to their old schools to discuss their experiences on a school-leaver programme or apprenticeship.” 

University remains popular but school-leaver schemes are hot on their heels.

Even with the onset of top-up fees leaving students with an average debt of &pound44,000, university continues to be a popular choice. The latest UCAS figures show applications reached a record high of 2,711,870 applications in 2013 - an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year. Despite this, the number of apprenticeships and training schemes for school-leavers has also increased by a quarter year on year to 37,410 vacancies according to the National Apprenticeship Service, with a number of City firms and traditional graduate employers, actively looking to take on more school-leavers. 

EY has taken on 200 school-leavers since the programme’s launch in 2012 and intends to take on 100 over the next year across its assurance, corporate finance and tax practices.

Liz Bingham, EY managing partner for talent, comments,  “As a school-leaver myself, I have seen how it is possible to become successful in this business with the right attitude and support. University isn’t going to be right for everybody, and businesses like EY are keen to provide as many routes as possible for students to access a career in professional services.

“School-leavers joining EY get a head start in their career, earn a competitive salary and learn on the job.”

 

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