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Choices at 16

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Now that you've reached fourth year, and could possibly leave school this year, you have some important decisions to make about your future.

Even if you've already decided to stay on at school you still need to think and plan ahead. The subjects and courses you choose now will have an impact on the options open to you in the future.

Your main options

Before you consider each option remember to:

Staying on at school

The benefits of staying on at school:

But you do need to ask yourself a few questions first. Are you prepared to put the work in to do well next year? What subjects will you take, and which careers or courses will they help to get you into? Is it right for me, or would I achieve more in a different environment?  

Going to college

In 2018/19, 52.1% of fourth year school leavers went on to further education at college.

The benefits of full time study at college:

But it's also a big change. You'll have to take more responsibility for managing your time and your course work. Lecturers and tutors won't chase you up about handing your work in on time!

Read our articles on 'Going to college?', 'Differences between school and college' and 'Funding full time further education' for more detailed information.

Finding a Modern Apprenticeship

Modern apprenticeships are now the main route into employment for young people straight from school. They give you the opportunity to start a job with guaranteed training towards a recognised work-based qualification.

In 2019-2020, 10,963 16-19 olds started a Modern Apprenticeship in Scotland, with 18,438 already in training.

The benefits of a Modern Apprenticeship:

You may need to take an aptitude test to get into some apprenticeships, particularly for craft and technician level apprenticeships in construction and engineering. For more information take a look at our Apprenticeship section.

The pay rate for apprentices varies but you are entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage for apprentices. At present the apprentice rate, for those aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, is £4.30 an hour (1 April 2021).

Going straight into a job

You could decide to look for a job that doesn't include apprenticeship training. Opportunities are out there but they are limited due to the economic situation, and you may not get any recognised training.

Benefits of going straight into a job:

How much you earn can vary a lot depending on the sort of industry you go into, but it's important to remember that the national minimum wage for 16-17 year olds is £4.62 an hour from April 2021.

Employability programmes

If you don't feel ready to move on to work, training or further education by the time you leave school you could take part in a personal development or employability programme to help you to build up your confidence and skills. In 2018 - 2019, 3.5% of school leavers went into training programmes.

There is a wide range of programmes, which vary depending on the area you live in. Some are national training programmes; others are run by local community groups or employment initiatives. There may be the opportunity to do work experience, voluntary work or community work as part of the programme.

Your school and career coach will be able to give you more information on the programmes that are available in your area.

And finally...

We'd just like to mention that volunteering is another option you could consider. If you'd like to know more read our article 'Volunteering'.

It's important to remember that you can help your parents or carers to support you by talking with them about your options.

They may not be aware of the full range of options open to you at this stage, or the types of career advice and support that are available to you – in and out of school.

Ask to speak with your career coach or adviser in school if you would like more information and advice before making any decisions.


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