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Taking the next step

A guide for parents who are beginning to plan for the future with your teens. Let's look at apprenticeships vs university and the financial implications. Part of Words That Count.

Sarah Content Creator talks about planning for the future with her teenager. Words That Count.

Tips for parents on how to start a conversation with your teen about their plans for the future

Sarah: Find me on TikTok @sezagal

If you are anything like me, you’ll be looking at your teenager and wondering where the time has gone. As a parent I am always wondering how my son can possibly be old enough to be thinking about his future beyond school. We’ve realised, that this is a good time to start having more in-depth conversations about his potential work life and how to become independent.

It can be hard for both parent and teen to start a conversation about the bigger topics like, what does the future look like?, or which is the right path to take after school? However, we’ve decided to just jump in and start helping each other figure out the next steps.

We’ve teamed up with the National Literacy Trust on their Words That Count campaign to explore the best ways to start a conversation about building financial resilience. For our family, that looks like a chat around the kitchen table about what Alex wants to do beyond school so that we can best work out the practical options that suit his interests and passions. Nothing’s off the table from university to apprenticeships and vocational training courses. We also want to explore the financial implications for both myself as a parent, and for him as he sets out on his own path.

Investing in the future

When you’re a teenager, it might feel like ‘being grown up’ is a lifetime away. It’s hard to know who you are in the moment let alone thinking about what you might want to do as a career for the next few decades. While we all know that it’s ok to be flexible and that nothing has to be set in stone, it is still important to chat with your teen about how they can invest in their future and how to make sensible choices now which will help build financial resilience whatever career path they eventually settle on.

What are your options?

Whether it's going to university, learning a trade, or pursuing something completely different, the key is to think about the initial steps, the training needed, and the financial investment required at the outset to support your teen to follow their chosen path. Sometimes this might mean investing early – like with university, in order to reap the benefits in a few years’ time. Alternatively, as with Alex, an apprenticeship in the construction industry has the potential to pay as he learns but there may be other considerations to make along the way.

My biggest piece of advice, it is always easier to make an informed decision when you have a better understanding of the jargon involved!

A handy glossary of terms

Delve into some of the key terms, words and phrases relating to apprenticeships, vocational training and university that we have come across during our research and conversations.

  • Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is an opportunity to learn on the job. It can be either full-time or part-time, paid employment with a company where you will also be expected to complete a programme of training alongside your job. An apprentice will learn while they carry out the job but will also have time out to take part in more formal workshops, courses or other training activities. Apprenticeships are available across a wide range of industries from policing and nursing to trades, engineering, leisure and hospitality or even finance and accounting, design and IT.

UCAS.com has more information that will help you and your teen dig a little deeper.

  • Degree Apprenticeship

A degree apprenticeship just means that the young person will also gain a funded degree alongside their industry experience as an employee. Find out more about degree apprenticeships.

  • Apprenticeship agreement

When someone begins an apprenticeship, they will receive an apprenticeship agreement. This is one of two key documents which outlines the important facts that the young person is agreeing to during the length of their experience. An apprenticeship agreement includes things like the length of time of the employment, any specific details about the working conditions and benefits as well as the specific apprenticeship standard (agreed level of achievement) they will complete by the end of their time as an apprentice.

  • Commitment statement

The second of the two key documents an apprentice will receive is the Commitment Statement. This outlines the learning elements of the apprenticeship in more details. How often the young person will be expected to study and what they’ll learn as well as the qualification they will receive on completion and any expectations from the employer and training provider.

  • Knowledge, skills and behaviours (or KSBs)

KSBs is an acronym that has come up a few times in our research. It stands for knowledge, skills and behaviours which are the elements that a young person will learn along the way. These are also the key areas that they will be assessed on at the end of their apprenticeship, so it is important to be able to demonstrate that they have achieved them.

  • Personal statement

A personal statement is a piece of writing which tells an employer or a university more about you as a person. It is a great opportunity to showcase your skills, interests and experiences, and how these are relevant to your chosen course, job or training. You can find more helpful information in our Careers Corner.

For a more comprehensive glossary of apprenticeship terms and definitions, head over to the Institute of Apprenticeships. These guys really know their stuff!

  • UCAS

UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is an independent charity which aims to help young people aged 18+ make decisions about their options beyond school. The organisation helps young people make the practical next step to explore entering higher education, employment and apprenticeships.

  • Clearing

The word clearing is used to describe the process of applying for a university place after the typical window for applications. UCAS will work with universities to fill their empty places on courses and match these with potential applicants who may have otherwise missed out on a university place. You can find out more about clearing on the government’s Education hub blog.

  • Student loan

A student loan is potential funding which is available to help people pay any university fees, as well as to help a young person have addition money to go towards any costs of living like household bills, grocery shopping and bus fares.

Student loans will vary and the amount is often determined by how much a student’s parent(s) or guardian earns, and their capacity to support the young person financially.

  • Loan repayments

Once university is over, the student will need to start paying back their student loan. However, this will only begin once the student earns a salary above a certain amount.

  • Tuition fees

There is a cost to going to university. Tuition fees are the amount of money you will pay each year to your university, and these will cover the costs of your course. This will vary depending on the course you choose to do.

You can find a useful guide to student finances and advice on budgeting at university from theuniguide.co.uk.

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