Jobs for School Leavers (How does it work?)

In a previous blog, we looked at some productive ways to spend your summer holidays after sitting your GCSEs. Along with resting, connecting with friends, and preparing for the next stage in your life, we mentioned working and apprenticeships.

In terms of earning a wage, school leavers have two choices – get a job or apply for an apprenticeship.

Both will see you earn money and gain experience in the working world. However, the jobs for school leavers are somewhat limited and tend to be low-paid. 

Typical School Leaver Jobs

For example, you can be a glass collector in a bar but not serve alcoholic drinks. You can wait tables in a restaurant, work on the till in a shop or work in a leisure venue such as a cinema. Call centres also employ teenagers. 

Other work available from age 13 includes babysitting and light manual labour within the local community.

Since UK restrictions on child employment state that 16-year-olds can work a maximum of 35 hours a week (and only two on a Sunday), it is difficult for a school leaver to build up substantial money with this type of job. The minimum wage for 16 to 17-year-olds is £5.28 an hour, so you would only make £184 a week for what can be unpleasant work, such as cleaning public bathrooms as part of your shift or sweating in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant. 

It is honest work, but progression is usually slow, if available at all. Most 16-year-olds have few life expenses, and if you are just looking to save up or contribute to the bills at home, a part-time job like this does help you prepare for dealing with new or stressful situations.

If you are looking to start a career, though, an apprenticeship may be a better bet. 

It is entirely possible to work your way up the ranks of a company starting as a teenager, but industry qualifications such as those gained by a Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeship can significantly speed up the process.

School Leaver Apprenticeships

School leaver apprenticeships will likely also pay minimum wage at least in the first year, but are more likely to lead to a career rather than just being a monthly or weekly paycheck.

They are usually focused on a specific role or industry but will also help you gain transferable interpersonal skills.

Depending on how well or badly you did in your GCSEs, you can apply for an entry-level (intermediate) or advanced apprenticeship.

Intermediate Apprenticeships  

The lowest level of apprenticeship is a Level 2 Intermediate apprenticeship. Equivalent to 5 GCSE passes, an intermediate apprenticeship can help you to improve your employability by earning a recognised industry qualification.

To apply for an entry-level UK apprenticeship, you must be:

  • 16 or older
  • Not in full-time education
  • A UK resident or eligible to live and work in the UK

Many Level 2 apprenticeships will require a pass mark in the core subjects (maths and English) at GCSE level. However, some apprenticeship programmes may allow you to complete these requirements during the first year.  

Most entry-level apprenticeships take a year to 18 months to complete, although they can occasionally run longer. 

The short duration makes an apprenticeship a good option if you are not sure what industry you would like to work in. If you don’t feel it is the best fit, you won’t have lost any money and can still follow a different route. 

Completing a Level 2 apprenticeship opens more doors. You can go on to college to study A-Levels, get a job or progress into an advanced apprenticeship in the same or a related field.

Advanced Apprenticeships 

An advanced apprenticeship is a Level 3 apprenticeship, which is the equivalent of 2 A-Level passes. It is also the most popular type of apprenticeship, making it the most competitive. 

You should aim to apply for a few different advanced apprenticeships and try not to be too disheartened if you are unsuccessful the first time. 

If you achieved good passes in your GCSEs, you should be eligible to apply for an advanced apprenticeship without doing a Level 2 apprenticeship. 

Advanced apprenticeships last a minimum of one year, but typically run for 2-4 years. During this time, your wage will increase to reflect your age and the stage of the apprenticeship you have reached. 

They are more specific industry-related apprenticeships than most Level 2s and can be a step towards a university degree or a higher apprenticeship. An advanced apprenticeship can also help you secure a higher wage in full-time employment.

Apprenticeships don’t suit everyone, and there is nothing wrong with going straight to a part-time or even full-time job straight out of school. Of course, many of your peers will take the more traditional route of studying A-Levels at college, another valid choice.

We want you to be as informed as possible regarding your options as a school leaver. 

We hope you now have a better understanding of school leaver apprenticeships. If you want to find apprenticeships in your area, you can use our search function to filter available apprenticeships by location and keywords. 

Whatever you choose to do, we wish you luck in the next phase of your life.

Relax. We’ll send the jobs to you.

Reckon you know what you want to do, but can’t find the perfect role? Most companies hire their apprentices in a ‘recruitment window’. This means many great jobs are only available for a short time once or twice each year.

Sign up for our job alerts service, and we’ll send you any jobs that fit your search criteria.