Surge in applications from school leavers
A PROFESSIONAL services firm has seen a surge in interest from school leavers choosing to opt out of university and head straight into the world of work.
Interest in school-leaver entry schemes at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has risen to five times the levels before the recession struck five years ago.
PwC in the North received 565 applications – a 38 per cent rise on the number of applications last year – for 16 school and college-leaver vacancies in its assurance, tax and consulting practices.
These include the industry's first Higher Apprenticeships – designed to meet employers' needs for higher level skills – in tax and consulting.
Natalie Smith joined PwC in Hull last September after completing A levels in the sixth form.
She is now studying to complete her Association Of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification at the company.
She said: "I really enjoy my job at PwC and I think it was the best option for me, rather than university.
"I wanted a challenge and I see a lot of scope for opportunity at the firm.
"I have always seen myself in a finance role and I knew I wanted to do a job like this so I thought the best route was to get my qualifications at the same time as working."
Miss Smith said the globally recognised ACCA qualification she will gain at PwC will give her skills she can transfer through different industries.
Applications to the firm's school-leaver programmes represent 8 per cent of the overall number of student and graduate-entry applications, and the school-leaver intake represents 6 per cent of PwC's overall student and graduate entry offering this year.
Richard Bunter, senior partner in PwC's Hull office, said the company has played a leading role in the development of the government's Higher Apprenticeships Scheme and the initial response to the scheme has been even better than expected.
He said: "There's a generation of students weighing up their career and training options differently, whether because of university fees, economic forecasts or graduate unemployment, and employers have to adapt.
"We've played a leading role in the development of the government's Higher Apprenticeships Scheme and the initial response to the scheme has been even better than expected.
"Talented students who are clear about their career path won't compromise on training and development, and this offers them a realistic alternative to get into business straight after A levels."
Mr Bunter said PwC has recruited more than 500 school and college leavers over the past ten years nationally, and this new framework further cements its commitment to widening access to the professions, while creating a nationally recognised industry qualification.
He said: "We're not seeing a wholesale shift away from graduate entry, though.
"The interest and demand is a mix of genuine increased interest in new, quality training options with major employers, and also reflective of some students hedging their bets with university places.
"Overall, students are looking at their options in their teens, rather than waiting until their third year at university, and for an employer that's good news."
Nationally, the firm received 2,352 applications for 100 school and college-leaver vacancies in offices across the UK.
Steve Simpson, director in PwC's assurance practice in Hull, said: "Anyone with the right talent and transferable skills has the opportunity to succeed in our business.
"We are working with careers advisers, schools and colleges, training organisations, parents and students to help young people make informed decisions about their future career and the route they take to get there."