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School Leavers Programme

School Leaver Programmes aren’t as easy to define as Apprenticeships and will vary from company to company and industry to industry. Some employers have retitled their Higher Apprenticeships as ‘School Leaver Programmes’; others have veered away from the whole Apprenticeship structure completely.

They tend to be offered by the large companies in industries like accountancy and finance, engineering, retail, hospitality and tourism, and IT. Employers offer programmes that give A-level students or career changers the chance to work towards a university degree and/or professional qualification. Most companies will sponsor or part-sponsor your education and, in return, you might work full-time or part-time for them. That’s one of the best bits of School Leaver Programmes: you receive education and training whilst working for a company and earning a wage.

What Qualifications will I gain?

As School Leaver Programmes aim to provide a genuine alternative for students who would have otherwise gone to university, employers put plenty of emphasis on the kind of qualifications you might gain whilst on the programme. Some programmes are centred on attaining a bachelor’s degree or foundation degree, while others might focus on the achievement of a professional qualification. A few will combine them both, offering their trainees the chance to obtain a degree and a postgraduate professional qualification. It’s your choice: you can opt for a School Leaver Programme where you’ll get a degree as part of the scheme, or bypass university altogether and aim for a professional qualification.

How long do School Leaver Programmes last?

School Leaver Programmes tend to be lengthier than the average Apprenticeship. Most School Leaver Programmes can last anywhere between three and seven years. It might seem like a long haul, but that’s the time you’ll need to gain some serious qualifications.

The years are usually broken down into stages. For example, students might spend one year at university, before working full-time for the company for the next two years, or they might work at the company and study for a degree or professional qualification on a part-time or distance learning basis.

Am I eligible for a School Leaver Programme?

The whole point of a School Leaver Programme is that they don’t expect you to be an expert in the industry already. However, since they are positioned as the more ‘elite’ school leaver opportunities and competition can be tough, most companies will usually specify a minimum number of UCAS points or a minimum number of A-levels in their entry requirements. This could be anything from requiring two A-level passes to asking for a whopping 320 UCAS points. Entry requirements will vary from company to company, but overall they will be looking for bright, young, ambitious candidates with an interest in their industry, who are keen to leap straight into the world of work.

What’s the Difference between a School Leaver Programme and a Sponsored Degree Programme?

There’s plenty of crossover between the two, with some School Leaver Programmes more akin to Sponsored Degree Programmes and vice versa.

Examples of School Leaver Programmes

Airbus Undergraduate Apprenticeship

Barclay’s Retail Development Programme

BDO School Leaver Programme

Deloitte BrightStart Scheme

Grant Thornton School Leaver Programme

Harrods School Leavers Programme

KPMG School Leavers’ Programme

Marks and Spencer’s Trainee Retail Management programme

National Audit Office

National Audit Office School Leaver Programme

National Grid Engineer Training Programme

RSM Tenon School Leaver Scheme

Sainsbury’s Trainee Manager Scheme

Santander Flying Start

Siemens Finance & Commercial Academy

Tesco Trainee Management Options Programme/ Commercial

Development Programme

Travelodge Junior Management Programme

St Mary's Catholic High School, Newbold Road, Newbold, Chesterfield, S41 8AG


St Marys Catholic High School Academy Trust is an exempt charity and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales with Company Number 8107212 and has a registered office at Newbold Road, Upper Newbold, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 8AG.

St Mary's Catholic High School