Against a backdrop of mounting student debt, reduced university places, budget cuts and increasing graduate unemployment, A Level student entry training schemes could re-emerge to offer an alternative to talented students looking to kick start their careers says PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

The firm is offering 50 places across the UK this year on its A Level training scheme to start in August and September. The scheme offers an alternative to university where students earn while they work towards a professional accounting or tax qualification, gaining a qualification faster than those who attend university.

Sonja Stockton, Director, Talent Acquisition, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, commented:
“In addition to reduced university places, students could soon be forced to pay higher tuition fees. Already facing debts of £22,000 on average upon graduation, this will bring the investment they have to make in a degree much closer to home and some might even wonder whether university really is the right option for them when they already know what career they want to pursue.

“Since its launch ten years ago, PwC’s A Level entry scheme, HEADstart, has recruited over 600 nationwide for trainee positions with students earning while they work towards professional qualifications in tax and assurance.

“A Level student entry schemes offer a different way to acquire professional qualifications and are particularly suited to those who have a clear career in mind when they leave school. Combining formal study with on the job experience and personal coaching, puts everything you learn in your studies straight into action.”

The struggle to gain a university place is becoming a frightening reality for many it is feared that as many as 200,000 hopefuls could miss out on a university place this year Higher Education Statistics Agency. In addition, unemployment for 16-24 year olds remaining at record levels, which might spark a renaissance for specialist on the job training schemes. It is estimated that 26% of employers have an A-Level entry scheme.

To date, application rates have increased 15% year on year, and 68% overall since 2008. The requirements are 280 UCAS points or equivalent and trainees study for the ACCA qualification or an ATT qualification in tax potentially leading to a CTA.

Danielle Goddard is a trainee associate working in assurance in the Hull office, who joined PwC via HEADstart. She said:

“After deciding that accountancy was the right career for me I applied to HEADstart as it genuinely does give you a head start in your career. If you know that you want a career in accountancy, then there’s no need to spend the time and money at university; you may as well get started now.”

“The main advantage is that you start working and studying towards your professional qualification straight after leaving college. This means you can be ACCA-qualified within four years of leaving college, you will gain valuable work experience straightaway, and start earning a salary, which increases year on year, plus there are no student debts to repay.

“The ACCA qualification is recognised globally, and there is even the opportunity to opt into the Oxford Brookes university scheme, which means you can gain a BSc (Hons) in Applied Accounting on top of the ACCA qualification.”