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Careers Guidance for Parents

Choosing a future career is one of the biggest decisions a young person makes.  Ensuring your children are set up for a successful career, future financial security and a good quality of life is a pressing challenge for every parent. As parents, your children will look to you for advice and guidance even if they don’t like to admit it!

As a parent you are expected to have all the answers, but in a constantly evolving world it can be a struggle to keep up with the latest options out there.

We have put together this document to help answer the questions you may have.


Jump to a section

► Pathways

► Apprenticeships

► College

► Hertswood's Sixth Form

► University

► Qualifications

► Careers Options



Can my child get a job at 16 and start working?

Yes, but in England, it is a legal requirement to stay in some form of training or education until the age of 18. So the employer would have to offer training with the opportunity of gaining a qualification.

What are the options at the end of Year 11?

At the end of Year 11 students can choose between:

  • Full-time study in a school sixth form.
  • a further education college.
  • a sixth form college.
  • an apprenticeship with an employer.

At the end of Year 13 can choose between:

  • Getting a job.
  • An apprenticeship.
  • Higher education at either a university or college.

Which pathway is best for my child?

There is no single answer to this question. The best route will depend on the final target career, what motivates your child and their preferred style of learning. The key is to research all options and discuss these with your child.



What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experiences.

Alongside on-the-job training, apprentices spend at least 20% of their working hours completing classroom-based learning with a college, university or training provider which leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

An apprenticeship includes:

  • paid employment with holiday leave.
  • hands-on-experience in a sector/role of interest.
  • at least 20% off-the-job training.
  • formal assessment which leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

At what age can you start an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are for anyone above the age of 16 who isn't in full-time education. There isn't an age limit but they're normally aimed at 16-24 year olds.

Are there different types of apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are categorised by the level of qualification that you gain on completion.

  • Level 2 apprenticeships (Intermediate) - Level 2 apprenticeships are the first step on the apprenticeship ladder. As a level 2 apprentice, you’ll gain on-the-job experience alongside qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs. You’ll get a full-time wage for the duration of your apprenticeship as well.  Level 2 apprenticeships take around 12 – 18 months to complete.
  • Level 3 apprenticeships (Advanced) - Similarly to a level 2 apprenticeship, level 3 apprentices combine work training with academic study. You’ll earn a wage and gain qualifications equivalent to two A-Levels.  Level 3 apprenticeships take up to 2 years to complete. However, the length of your programme will depend on your employer and capabilities.
  • Level 4/5 apprenticeships (Higher) - Higher apprenticeships, also referred to as level 4 or level 5 apprenticeships, are designed for school leavers aged 18+.  They’ll give you work experience, qualifications equivalent to a foundation degree, Higher National Diploma (HND), or Higher National Certificate (HNC). These apprenticeships can last anywhere between 3-4 years. The academic modules are usually spent in a further or higher education institution. The rest of a higher apprentice’s time is spent working for a company.
  • Degree apprenticeships - Degree apprenticeships are the pinnacle of apprenticeships and offer the opportunity to earn a degree. Degree apprenticeships take between 3 and 6 years to complete.

Where can I find more information about apprenticeships?

There are lots of great websites to help you learn about apprenticeships. We particularly like:

How do you apply for an apprenticeship?

The process for applying for an apprenticeship is very much like applying for a job.

Both RateMyApprenticeship and HOP list current apprenticeships. RateMyApprenticeship shows apprenticeships available nationally while HOP shows apprenticeships available in Hertfordshire.



What is the difference between higher education and further education?

Further education (FE) includes any study after secondary education that’s not part of higher education, so typically college or 6th forms while higher education involves undergraduate and postgraduate study.

What is the difference between college and 6th Form?

While both options provide students with a pathway to higher education, they differ in a number of ways. Colleges focus solely on educating students aged 16-18. These colleges are often larger than school sixth forms and often offer technical and vocational qualifications.

When do we need to start applying for college/6th Form courses?

Applications can start at any time during Year 11, though typically students start applying during the spring term.

Any offers made by a college/6th Form will be subject to the student gaining the required grades at the end of Year 11. The specific grades required by each course will be explained by the college/6th Form.

What if our child changes their mind about the courses they want to do at college/6th Form, is this a problem?

This depends on when the student changes their mind. If during year 11 a student changes their mind this isn't an issue, a student can apply to multiple colleges and only has to make a decision about which one to attend once the GCSE results are known in August

Many students change their mind in the first few weeks of starting a new course. Colleges/6th Forms are used to this and will allow students to move courses as long as they meet the requirements for the new course they wish to choose.

The longer a student has studied a course before deciding to change the harder it becomes to change to a new course. This is due to the amount of teaching they will have already missed on the course they wish to change to.


Hertswood's Sixth Form

You can learn more about Hertswood Academy's Sixth Form with the links below.

► Sixth Form > Welcome

► Sixth Form > Facilities

► Sixth Form > Choices

► Sixth Form > Extra Curricular Opportunities

► Sixth Form > How to Apply



How do we apply for a university course?

All applications are done through  the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

What does the application process involve?

The process is all online. Once registered with UCAS, students complete sections on:

  • Personal details.
  • Qualifications and predicted grades.
  • Any employment history.
  • The courses they are applying for.
  • Personal statement.
  • References.

What are the deadlines for applications?

The deadline for application for most courses is January of Year 13. Some courses such as dentistry, medicine and veterinary courses have an earlier deadline of October of Year 13. Some universities such as Cambridge and Oxford also have an earlier deadline, of October of Year 13.

Universities will then have until May to make students offers or let them know that they have been unsuccessful.

Students need to have accepted the offer they wish to accept by early June.

Do universities accept BTECs?

It will depend on the specific university and course, but generally yes.

What is a personal statement?

The personal statement is a chance for a student to get noticed for the unique talents and experiences they have. It’s an important part of the application process as it’s an opportunity for students to talk about themselves and their passions.

The personal statement should be tailored to the course being applied for. The statement is only 4000 characters (less than 1000 words) so needs to be concise.

Click here for guidance from UCAS on how to write a personal statement.

How many choices does a student have to make?

Students can apply for up to five university courses.

Is it free?

No, UCAS charge an administration fee which is about £30. We are not able to help with meeting this fee.

What is the importance of predicted grades?

A university’s decision as to whether a student is suitable for a particular course (and therefore whether to offer them a place) will be based on the students personal statement and predicted grades. However it is the actual grades achieved in the summer that will determine whether the student will be accepted onto the course.

How are predicted grades chosen?

Predicted grades are set by the subject teachers based on the students work and assessments.

What is the difference between super curricular and extracurricular?

Super curricular (also known as supra-curricular) are activities that develop and build on what the student is already studying.

Extracurricular are activities outside and unrelated to what the student is studying.

Where can I find more information about the university application process?

UCAS provides a lot of guidance for parents and carers on their website.

UCAS also create a guide for parents each year.



What do the GCSE grades mean?

By 2020 all GCSE subjects had stopped using the A* to F grading and moved to numerical grades. GCSE grades now start with 1 (the lowest) and go up to 9 (the highest).

Though there isn't an exact match between the old grades and the current system a grade 4 is broadly equivalent to a C, a grade 8 is broadly equivalent to an A* and a grade 9 is seen as being higher than an A*.

What is the difference between a GCSE and a BTEC?

BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. BTECs are specialist work-related qualifications.

BTECs come in a wide range of levels. A Level 2 BTEC is equivalent to a GCSE while a Level 3 BTEC is equivalent to an A-level.
BTECs tend to be more industry focussed compared to GCSE’s or A-levels.

Where a GCSE is typically assessed at the end of the course with a series of exams a BTEC is split into units. While some units are assessed via an exam the majority of units are assessed by the teacher and are similar to coursework.

What is a level 2 qualification?

The level of a qualification shows its level of difficulty. The levels are from entry level  to level 8. The higher the level the harder the qualification.

  • GCSEs are level 2 qualifications.
  • A-levels are level 3 qualifications.
  • A bachelor's degree is a level 6 qualification.
  • Post graduate degrees and doctorates are level 7 and level 8 qualifications.

What is a T-level?

T-Levels are new two-year courses equivalent to three A levels. They launched in September 2020 to students in England.

A T-level takes 2 years to complete and are based around a specific industry area. As part of the course students spend the equivalent of 4 days a week studying and 1 day a week doing work experience.

More information on T-levels can be found here.

Do students have to resit their maths and English GCSE?

If a student doesn't achieve a grade 4 in maths at the end of Year 11 they will need to resit.

If a student doesn't achieve a grade 4 in either English language or English literature they will need to resit.

This applies whether the student goes on to 6th Form, college or does an apprenticeship.

There is no requirement to resit once a student reaches the end of Year 13 (or equivalent).

What subjects should my child take?

The subjects a student chooses are a personal choice.

Students shouldn't choose a subject just because they like their current teacher as there is no guarantee that they will have the same teacher next year.

Students should choose a subject just because their friends are choosing that subject.

If a student knows what career they wish to pursue then looking at what the entry requirements are for getting the job they want is a good place to start.

If a student doesn't yet know what career they wish to pursue then choosing subjects they enjoy is a good starting point.


Careers Options

Where can I find out about the careers available to my child?

The national Careers Service website has profiles on hundreds of jobs which includes what each job involves, what qualifications are needed and what level of pay can be expected.

The National Careers Service also offers a skills checker where you can enter what you are good at and what sort of things you enjoy and it will suggest possible careers. Click here for to the National Careers Service website.

The Careers and Enterprise Company website is an excellent source of information about careers and jobs available in Hertfordshire including webinars, adverts for apprenticeships and opportunities to get involved. Click here to go to their website.

The job market is changing so fast - how can we help our child be prepared?

Though good qualifications are central to being successful in the job market, soft skills are also important and will always be in demand.

The soft skills most valued by employers are:

  • Teamwork - With effective teamwork, teams are more productive, deadlines are met, relationships with your team members are stronger and knowledge is shared.
  • Problem solving -  No matter how smooth of a workplace we have, hurdles will appear, which is why knowing how to work towards the best possible solution to new and complex problems will ensure more successful outcomes.
  • Communication - Good communication skills means you are able to actively listen to, and understand other perspectives, while also being able to share your own effectively.
  • Adaptability - If you’re adaptable, you’ll make sure to completely understand an impending change and keep an open mind.
  • Critical thinking - Critical thinking skills are valued in the workplace because they allow you to effectively analyse information given to you and make informed decisions.
  • Time management  - With only so many hours in the working day, time management is a process whereby you intentionally allocate your time productively and effectively
  • Interpersonal - Interpersonal skills are those that allow you to build relationships and communicate well with others.

The National Careers Service offers ideas on how to develop soft skills. Click here for more information.

I want to talk at home about careers but don't know where to start

In terms of career choice, you should:

  • Aid, but not dictate, the decision-making process.
  • Support your child’s decisions.
  • Give your children freedom and time to discover their skills.
  • Provide motivation to develop and achieve.
  • Provide encouragement to pursue interests and ambitions.
  • Try to instil a responsible attitude and mature outlook.
  • Instil an attitude of self belief by being positive and never critical – as a parent your words will have the biggest effect on your child.

Talking Futures have a website and lots of resources to help parents talk about careers. Click here to find out more.