Interest in school leaver entry schemes at professional services firm PwC has risen to five times the levels experienced pre-recession, as school and college leavers consider a wider range of options after their A Level exams.

PwC received 2,352 applications for 100 school and college leaver vacancies in its assurance, tax and consulting practices, which start in autumn 2012, including the industry’s first Higher Apprenticeships in tax and consulting. This signals a 34% rise in applications year on year, and a 464% increase since 2008.

Increasing demand for A Level schemes is indicative of the increasing demand seen across all programmes. Amid reports from HESA* that 20,000 graduates are struggling to find paid jobs within six months of leaving university, graduate and intern placement interest also remains strong. Applications to the firm’s school leaver programmes represent 8% of the overall number of student and graduate entry applications, and the school leaver intake represents 6% of PwC’s overall student and graduate entry offering this year.

Gaenor Bagley, PwC partner and Head of People, 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.

“The initial response to our new Higher Apprenticeship, a new addition to our existing school and college leaver programmes, 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. We have recruited over 500 school and college leavers over the past ten years and this new framework further cements our commitment to widening access to the professions, while creating a nationally recognised industry qualification.

“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.”

Richard Irwin, PwC head of student recruitment, said:

“We are clear that anyone with the right talent and transferable skills, regardless of their background, 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.

“Pessimistic discussions around the student job market can paralyse people’s ambitions and their drive to develop themselves. Being despondent is going to get you nowhere. Commitment to personal development is one of the most important things we look for as an employer and not all transferable skills need to be gained through work. Sport or volunteering, for example, are great training grounds for leadership and relationship management skills, and applicants are coming to us with a far greater understanding of this than ever before.”

Whether students choose to enter employment straight from school or go to university, PwC is offering more opportunity than ever before. For example, the firm’s University Partnership Degree Programme, established in 2002 at Newcastle University, is expanding to Henley Business School at the University of Reading for the first time this autumn. And the firm’s ‘Academy’ for talented first year university students looking to start their job search early is increasing to 300 places in the coming year.

* Further information on the HESA stats on the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Institutions 2010/11 published on 26 July 2012 can be found here: