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Pupils urged to pick carefully and stay on academic ladder

By Lindsay Fergus

Pupils getting their GCSE results are being urged to carefully consider what future path they take as it could affect their long-term career prospects.

The Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) has advised teenagers to look towards the growth sectors such as business services.

“Whilst the economic situation at the moment is indeed difficult, opportunities still exist in a number of sectors such as business services (including ICT), financial services, manufacturing (food and drink, advanced manufacturing and advanced engineering), life and health sciences, creative industries, retail, hotels and catering,” said DEL Minister Stephen Farry.

The need for people qualified in these areas was identified in a 2011 report by the Northern Ireland adviser on employments and skills .

That message has been reinforced by economist John Simpson who stressed that A-Levels or vocational subjects focused on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) are the way forward for the youth of today.

And with Northern Ireland’s youth unemployment rate at 22.3% — the highest in the UK — Mr Simpson said in the current economic climate, students getting their GCSE results should look to continuing their education.

“Getting good GCSE results is not the moment to jump off the academic ladder. It’s too early for 99% of people to go out into the world and make a living. They should continue to A-Levels or vocational qualifications underpinned with maths and some science,” he said.

“Our economy needs people with a higher skills set and there are plenty of examples of these skills requirements not being met.”

However, the National Union of Students and Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) has warned that plans by DEL and the Department of Education to cut Education Maintenance Allowance payments given to 16 to 19-year-olds to encourage them to stay in education could put young people off continuing their studies.

Every option the ministers have outlined will lead to the scrapping of the £10 and £20 weekly support bands for thousands of teenagers in education or training.

NUS-USI president Adrianne Peltz, said: “The Executive needs to realise that people cannot make a positive decision on what their next step will be if they are potentially facing cuts in student support and don’t know how much money they will have to live on.

“These dreams could lie in tatters for many people if the cuts which are proposed for EMA are implemented. It is absolutely essential that adequate financial support is provided to enable people to continue in education or training and reach their potential.”


Careers Service — or call 0300 200 7820

Colleges NI —

CCEA’s examination helpline — 028 9026 1260, email, or

You’ve got your results, so ... what next ????

Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry’s top tips for students getting GCSE results tomorrow

Q What should I do when I receive my GCSE results?

A The importance of making an informed decision following examination results is imperative to effective career planning. Taking time now to explore options will pay dividends in the future. Many will receive the results they expected — others will receive better than expected results and will need to take stock of the many options now open to them. Some may be disappointed with their grades and have no idea of what to do next. This transitional period presents a crossroads in a young person’s career planning and I would encourage students, unsure of their next step, to take advantage of professional careers guidance in order to make well informed decisions.

Q What is the Careers Service

A My Department’s Careers Service has a key purpose — to provide professional, impartial and free careers information, advice and guidance to people of all ages, tailored to individual needs. Young people and parents can access a wealth of useful information through the website Alternatively you can call 0300 200 7820. I have recently introduced a pilot of Saturday opening for the Careers Resource Centre in central Belfast.

Q If I want to continue my education what are my options?

A Your options may include staying on in your current school or moving to different school for sixth form. Many schools are now involved in area learning communities so you may have the opportunity to attend more than one school. This means you should have a larger choice of subjects to choose from and a better chance of finding more appropriate subjects and courses you will enjoy or ones more appropriate to meeting your career expectations. It is always a good idea to think ahead to where this might lead you as some courses and/or jobs require you to study specific subjects. After sixth form, you could use your qualifications to enter further or higher education, training or employment. Further education colleges offer a range of courses. These include academic, vocational or a mixture of both. There are different levels of course available to suit individual ability and learning support for those with learning needs.

Q What are the options if I want to earn while I learn?

A An apprenticeship will give you the opportunity to be in paid employment and achieve nationally recognised skills and qualifications in a variety of occupations. Apprenticeships are delivered at your local further education college or are also offered by a number of private training organisations.

Q What about if I want to get a job?

A You could commence full or part time employment or even look into the possibility of self employment. Opportunities exist in ICT, financial services, manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and advanced engineering, life and health sciences, creative industries, retail, hotels and catering.

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