Day 2 of National Careers Week continues. Today we focus on Post 16 options such as sixth form, college and apprenticeships. What is the right path to find the career you want? Below, we outline the basic information and useful tips to help you on your way.

What are my choices?

Sixth Forms:

  • 2 year A level programme mainly exam based.  Students take 3 or 4 different subjects.
  • Some sixth forms offer BTEC vocational qualifications, mainly course work based or a combination of A levels and vocational qualifications.
  • Sixth form requires at least 5 GCSEs at C and above for A level and BTEC 3 and usually B grades for subjects you wish to study at A level
  • Some Schools offer the International Baccalaureate, a combination of 6 subjects to include English, maths and a language plus a “Core Programme” – most subjects require GCSEs at grades A* to B .
  • Some schools offer 1 year vocational courses at Level 2 requiring D grades GCSE which can lead on to level 3 programmes.

Further Education Colleges:

  • Offer a variety of vocational, practical courses relating to a wide range of jobs  and some also offer A levels
  • Courses are offered at all levels from Foundation, requiring no GCSEs to Level 3 needing 5 GCSEs at Grades A to C, so you will be able to find a programme whatever GCSE grades you achieve.
  • Level 3 Diplomas offered at college are equivalent to A level standard and  accepted for entry to many university courses


  • Involves working with an employer usually 4 days per week plus 1 day at college or with a training provider
  • Train on the job to achieve qualifications while earning a training allowance
  • Competitive – there are often many students applying for each apprenticeship so it is important to apply for a second choice “back up” option in case you are not successful
  • Entry requirements vary – some C grades at GCSE usually required
  • To look for an apprenticeship register on

Training Providers: Work Based Learning

Programmes offered by some training providers as well as College combining personal development, key skills and work experience to prepare for employment.  No GCSEs required.

Job With Training:

In 2013 the Government decided all young people must stay in some form of learning until they are 17 and up to 18 by 2015.
This means you can go straight into work or be self employed PROVIDED you combine this with an education course that leads to an accredited qualification such as an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification).

What do I need to do now?

  1. Think about your skills, interests, subjects you enjoy, learning style e.g. practical activities, coursework, written exams.
  2. Find out your predicted GCSE grades to see which courses you may be eligible for.
  3. Explore career ideas to help you choose next steps.  See websites overleaf.   For careers you like check if there are any  subjects/courses which you need or would be useful after Year 11?
  4. Search for post GCSE courses using Make a list of those which interest you.
  5. Check school/college/training organisations’ websites and prospectuses to get further information
  6. Go to open evenings usually held November to February (check websites for dates).  Find out more about the courses on your list, how you will be assessed (coursework and/or exams) and what GCSE grades you will need.
  7. List the pros and cons of each of the courses you are interested in.  Apply for the course (s) you feel would suit you best (check deadlines and how to apply with school/college).
  8. Apply for 2 or 3 choices if undecided or unsure what your GCSE grades might be.
  9. To look for an apprenticeship register on Vacancies for national schemes e.g. British Telecom may appear from November but for most local vacancies search from March onwards.
  10. If applying for an apprenticeship always apply for either sixth form or college as a back up choice as apprenticeships can be competitive with no guarantee of a place.

Websites to help you:  - Includes detailed information on a wide range of careers - Includes a Careers Game where you can explore suggested careers to match your skills and interests - Includes film clips of a wide range of careers - Search here for education and training courses in your local area - Government National Apprenticeships website