Employer Led Programmes

What’s it all about?

Going to university and pursuing a degree is not the only option available to bright students. With the significant cost of a degree, you may want at least to consider your options. There are a number of firms offering very attractive School Leaver Programmes. These are well paid and you may find that they run parallel to many graduate schemes. They have the attraction of being less competitive at A-level entry, therefore gaining you entry into an organisation that you may struggle to secure as a graduate, when the competition is tougher. You will also be debt free. These schemes are becoming increasingly popular with employers. They tend to be offered by the large companies in industries like: Accountancy and Finance, Engineering, Retail, Hospitality and Tourism and ICT. Employers offer programmes that give A-level students the chance to work towards a university degree and/or professional qualification.

Entry Requirements?

Since they are positioned as a more ‘elite’ school leaver opportunity, competition can be tough with most companies usually specifying 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 300 UCAS points (3 x grade B at A Level). 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.

Qualification Earned?

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 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.


Northern Ireland employers who offer these direct entry programmes include: PWC Flying Start (Audit and Assurance), Deloitte Bright Start Scheme (Financial), Henderson Group (Retail), Grant Thornton (Accounting) and Marks & Spencers (Retail and Food).


To give you an example of what employers within the financial services sector offer A Level students, see below for details on the Deloitte Bright Start Scheme who recruit 20 students on an annual basis to their Belfast programme.


• Permanent job with one of the top 4 professional services firms
• Honours Degree in Business and Computing (free of charge) – completed on a part time basis over the 5 year period
• Starting salary of £14,000 per year, going up to over £20,000 after 5 years
• No student debt
• 5 years work experience, putting you ahead of the game for graduates aiming to join Deloitte post University

How to apply?

• Search newspapers and job websites;
• Look for vacancies on employer websites;
• Call employers yourself and enquire about the application process and their entry requirements;
• Use social media to keep up to date with when these employers launch their recruitment drive.





Schools in East Belfast involved in STEM projects and activities.



Ashfield Boys’ School | Ashfield Girls’ School | Bloomfield Collegiate | Campbell College | Grosvenor Grammar
Lagan College | Mitchell House | Our Lady & St Patrick’s College | Park School | Strathearn | Tor Bank School