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Aspire: The Changing Face of 21st Century Careers and Higher Education

How do you prepare for a job in an industry that doesn't yet exist? Are blue-chip apprenticeships now more attractive than the university route? What will tomorrow's job-seekers have to overcome to secure first job roles and a pathway to a fulfilling career? These questions and more were under the spotlight at our most recent Aspire event. Abbey Alumnae and industry experts offered advice and insight into the growing diversity of options available to school leavers. The evening was incredibly well attended by fifth and sixth form pupils and their parents, demonstrating the thirst for information about the swiftly changing future job market that our students will encounter.

We heard from Lisa Traynor, Head of Learning and Development at Nielsen, who explained how this respected research company has been innovating in the field of apprenticeships, offering both post-16 and post-18 options. So successful have they been that they have made the groundbreaking decision not to operate a graduate scheme this year, instead looking to their apprentices to provide the future workforce.

Petra Gent, Consulting Analyst for Deloitte, talked of her experience of going straight from school into blue chip apprenticeship schemes, first with IBM and now with Deloitte. She presented a very balanced view, explaining that while she is in no way “anti” university, she simply knew that it was not for her, and has never looked back.

Ruth Baughan, who left the Abbey in 2010 and is a User Experience architect, shared her experience of finding work through university placements and working in an industry that didn’t exist while she was at school. She encouraged the listening girls to “be ballsy” and not be afraid to pitch their skills to companies that interest them, especially in new industries, where recruitment procedures tend to be far more fluid and open to approach.

Luisa, who is in her first year studying for a degree in accountancy sponsored by PWC through the “Flying Start” programme, described how her decision to follow this path is driven by a desire to keep her options open. A talented musician, Luisa knows that she will have a guaranteed job with PWC provided that she achieves a 2:i, but she is also considering attending the Royal Academy of Music. She also explained that she feels university life is a valuable stepping stone – particularly in the area of learning to cook for yourself!

During the panel Q&A session, pupils and parents were interested to find out what the levels of competition are like for apprenticeships and sponsored degree schemes, and what the speakers felt had helped them gain places. There was certainly a lot of interest in the benefits of gaining a degree while avoiding student debt.

Following the Q&A session, Martin Birchall, founder ofHigh Fliers Research and editor of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, delivered an extensive and fascinating insight into the current state of the graduate employment market. He highlighted the sobering statistic that in 2016 400,0000 graduates were competing for just 200,000 graduate roles, and unveiled a ranking of universities by their graduate employment prospects. He had very interesting data on graduate job locations – a heavy London bias – and expected starting salaries. Life aspirations were also examined, with generation Z’s international outlook reflected in the fact that 53% of final year students surveyed expected to have lived and worked in a different country by the age of 30. Martin has kindly made his presentation available to view – click here to access it.

The evening was an extremely valuable event that helped parents and pupils view life after school through several different lenses as our speakers offered their unique perspectives, advice and insight. We’d like to offer our warmest thanks to all our speakers for giving us such an enjoyable evening, with particular recognition to Martin who endured the worst that Storm Doris has to throw at him as he made the journey to The Abbey from Liverpool