Employers focus on attracting school leavers

Employers’ benefits and reward offerings for young employees are in the spotlight following A-level and GCSE results.

Some of the UK’s largest organisations are aiming to attract high-achieving school leavers in addition to university graduates. This comes amid fears that higher university tuition fees will affect the diversity of graduates.

Accountancy firms KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) have established programmes specifically for school leavers.

KPMG has announced a six-year programme, which will provide its young recruits with a full accountancy qualification as well as a degree. Run in conjunction with Durham University and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the programme will offer school leavers a starting salary of £20,000.

Young people on the programme will receive a salary throughout the six-year period. During the degree phase, which will last four years, students will spend part of the time in residence at Durham University, where they will study at Durham Business School, and part of the time working for KPMG.

Oliver Tant, UK head of audit at KPMG, said: “We are really excited about this scheme. For us, one of the key things is to ensure fair access to the profession by ensuring the greatest number of young people possible go to university, and also have the potential to train as an accountant.

“We need an accountancy profession that is as diverse and as open as it can be. This scheme will address current concerns around how students can meet the costs of university, and make degrees and professional qualifications available to a broader socio-economic group.”

Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that the pay gap between young people educated to GCSE or equivalent with those educated at a higher level has reduced. The gap was lower in 2010 than it was in 1993.

The ONS Labour Force Survey showed that employees with a minimum of a degree earned, on average, around 85% more. This figure was 95% in 1993.

With a higher education qualification, but not degree, employees earned around 45% more. This figure was 54% in 1993.

Meanwhile, those educated to around A-level or an equivalent qualification earned around 15% more per hour. This figure was 18% in 1993.

The research found that the increase in the number of young people obtaining a degree has had an impact on the types of jobs performed by this group. This is because the percentage of those with a degree has increased at a faster rate than the increase in the percentage of high skill jobs in the UK, from 22% in 1993 to 28% in 2010.

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