UK’s youth in a double bind: chasing too few university places and too few jobs

Figures released by UCAS today reported a headline drop of 7.4% in applications for university places in the UK, taking into account the applications received for the 15th January deadline, with a slightly larger fall in England than in the rest of the UK.

Nevertheless, UCAS says that demand for higher education will continue to outstrip the number of places available in 2012. Applications are already 50,000 ahead of the number of acceptances in 2011, and last year UCAS received over 100,000 further applications between January and the close of the cycle.

At the same time, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show a record level of unemployment in the 16-24 year old age group of 22.3 per cent in the three months to November 2011. With competition for university places continuing to heat up and high levels of graduate unemployment, more and more young people will be actively looking into alternative options for employment and training.

Commenting on the statistics, Liz Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership, said: “Today’s figures show that UK school leavers continue to vie for too few university places and too few jobs. These are highly challenging times for young people.

“Happily in a changing jobs landscape there are some alternative opportunities opening up. One of these is the introduction of higher apprenticeships into the financial sector. Increasing numbers of bright and ambitious school leavers with the right attitude and aptitude will now be able to enter the sector as higher apprentices. They will gain high level qualifications while receiving invaluable on-the-job-experience and earning a wage.

“FSP has received funding to develop higher apprenticeship frameworks and is developing a Level 4 Apprenticeship Framework for Banking and Finance, collaborating with major employers such as HSBC and Aviva. This will be a nationally recognised higher level programme to train for a career in Insurance and Banking and will incorporate knowledge-based qualifications from the professional institutes. These schemes will provide a way into highly rewarding careers, ensuring the best talent from all backgrounds can be recruited into the sector.”

“We hope that FSP’s online career guide ‘Directions’ will rapidly become the UK’s go-to resource for employment and careers advice in finance, accounting and financial services. It offers independent information including job profiles of all the sector’s major roles, and alerts students to employers currently offering work placements, internships and apprenticeship schemes as well as graduate traineeships. Young people remain interested in pursuing careers in what remains a major backbone of the UK’s economy, and there are openings for the right candidates.”