At this time of year, it can seem that a lot hinges on just a few hours in an exam hall – and this is a pretty scary thought for any young person.
As parents, this can make us feel a bit powerless. That's why the more we understand, the better we can help our children take advantage of all their options and make the best decisions for them.
Here are five ways you can help out as a parent over this crucial summer:
Once exams are over, there’s a lull before results come out. This is a great time to have a frank discussion about your child’s career plans.
If they’ve just finished GCSEs and are going on to sixth form or college, this is a good opportunity to talk about where they might go after that. Encourage them to follow their interests, strengths and skills, as building their plans around something they care about is the best way to ensure happiness and success.
Planning out a career trajectory now means they can be decide whether university, an apprenticeship or a training programme is the best option (there's more on this coming up). You can use our career zones and employer pages to find out about the best way to prepare for different careers.
The best work experience will be relevant to the career they’re aiming for – that way they can demonstrate to future employers that they can bring some of the skills and experience more seasoned candidates will have. In a recent survey, 58% of employers said work experience was the most popular attribute among university graduates.
Having a two-three month holiday is a luxury, and a rare chance to get some of the experience that will make their CV stand apart.
Parents can be a big help when it comes to work experience. You’ll know people across a whole range of industries, and a phone call to a friend, or a even friend of a friend, can often yield quicker results than having your son or daughter cold call a list of employers.
If you don’t have a personal connection, encourage your child to talk to their school’s careers advisor. They could also look up relevant local employers and proactively get in touch – showing initiative will impress savvy recruiters and look great on their CV. And don't forget to check out vacancy listings on sites like Success at School.
Results day is on 25th August for GCSE students and 17th August for A-level students. Scottish higher results come through the post and will be with you by 9th August.
If your son or daughter has a college or university place for next year, the chances are they’ll be very disappointed if they don’t get the results they need. You can be a big support at this time, particularly if things don’t turn out as they hoped.
Remind them that missing their offer doesn’t have to spell doom. It’s always worth talking to the institution to see if they can be flexible about their entry requirements.
If not, clearing lets students apply for the university places that are still available, which means they can choose courses with lower requirements. About one in 10 students use clearing every year, and this year you can apply up to 20th September.
Facing an early setback can be a great learning experience, as Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Henry Ford could all tell you. An exam upset can also be a great impetus to embark down a different route – but they will need your support to understand that they are not a failure.
Employers are just as interested in competencies as grades – often more so – and comment that workplace skills are often lacking in graduates. This takes us on to our next point...
Did you know that there’s a scheme called the degree apprenticeship, which gives young people to chance to work towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree, while training for a high-skilled career and getting paid a salary?
The chances are you’ve never heard of it – yet six out of 10 parents in the know would rather their children did a degree apprenticeship than an Oxbridge degree – while 80% wish they’d done one themselves!
Higher apprenticeships also offer the chance to study for academic qualifications from a foundation degree up, and are available in fields as diverse as engineering, marketing, law and finance.
And then there are school leaver programmes from top companies such as PwC and Nestle. These are a bit like apprenticeships, and like apprenticeships, trainees earn a wage while they work towards professional qualifications.
The great thing about all these schemes is that often they don’t require top grades because employers look for verve, enthusiasm and intelligence rather than basing their decision solely on academic performance.
Apprenticeships are for 16 year olds too!
If your child doesn’t get the GCSE results they need to get to college, they always have the option of resitting, but more exams might not the best choice if academia isn’t their strength. All young people need to be in education or training till they're 18, but with an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship, they can train in paid job roles as varied as lab technician, web developer and finance officer.
The hardest job as a parent can be offering guidance while allowing them autonomy. You shouldn’t be afraid to share your point of view – after all, you have years of life experience and may have been through many of the decisions they’re going through now.
But at the end of the day, these are profound personal decisions, and the chances are your child will go their own way whatever happens. They may even be going in a new and unfamiliar direction – but with your support, they will be so much more likely to succeed, whatever path they choose to tread.