Parents are the biggest influencers on young people when deciding their career path after leaving school, but half of parents feel ill equipped to help their children make these crucial life choices, according to research released today by EY.

The study of over 90 trainees from EY’s school leaver programme revealed that 42% had first discussed their future careers options with their parents – above online research (26%) and careers advisors (17%).

However, in a separate survey by EY of over 1000 parents – with children aged between 15-25 – and over 500 employers, 48% of parents said they didn’t fully understand the options available to their children after A-Levels and 54% of parents said they didn’t fully understand the long term implications for their children’s careers. 56% of parents also considered these decisions to be more stressful than moving home or changing job.

Julie Stanbridge, Head of Student Recruitment at EY comments: “Every parent wants to give their children the best possible start in life and they naturally feel the weight of responsibility that comes with helping them make the right decision at a crossroads in their education.

“However it is clear from the survey that they aren’t armed with all the information they need. There is a lack of awareness around what options exist after A-levels and, more often than not, university becomes the default.

“As employers, it’s vital that we help to bridge the gap, to ensure parents, schools and students are armed with the information they need to make an informed decision.”

The Price of a Degree

The higher education landscape in the UK can see students graduating from a three-year degree with up to £53,000 worth of debt. This is also compounded by high levels of youth unemployment, with over 941,000 young people currently facing the dole queue.

These statistics have not gone unnoticed by parents of young people. 78% of those parents surveyed said they felt the costs of higher education were limiting the options for their children and 79% said they were concerned that their children would struggle to find employment on graduation.

University Challenged? 

The survey also revealed a difference in perception between parents and employers in the value of going to university. 89% of parents considered a recognisable degree qualification as the biggest benefit of going to university. Yet the survey revealed that 98% of employers really value students with work experience.

Julie comments: “Apprenticeships have traditionally been associated with skilled trades, and it is only fairly recently that we have seen other industries, including professional services, start to actively promote these career routes as genuine alternatives to university.

“Businesses recognise that school-leavers can bring fresh and diverse perspectives and that it is a great way of nurturing talent in-house. Our trainees gain hands on experience, receive excellent training and earn a competitive salary.

“However, these schemes aren’t going to be right for everyone – they are often geared towards a specific vocation. But for those looking for a great way to learn as they earn, they can be a really attractive option.”

Something for Everybody

According to the National Apprenticeship Services, there were 106,510 opportunities for school-leavers in 2013, which fall within several categories with the majority referred to as apprenticeships, school-leavers schemes or higher apprenticeships, with little distinction made between them.

Julie comments: “The variety of schemes on offer can be overwhelming, as there are a huge range of careers paths an individual can take if they are looking for an alternative to university. However, these schemes generally all have one crucial element in common and that is the opportunity to gain on-the-job work experience.”

Liz Bingham, EY’s Managing Partner for Talent in the UK & Ireland, entered professional services as a school leaver. She adds: “EY takes on around 800 graduates each year, but we now also have an increasingly popular school leaver scheme. This year we will be recruiting for 100 school-leavers to join our offices across the country.  In order to attract the best talent, it’s vital that we are able to offer a range of career entry points.”