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What to do if you don't make the grade

Question: What can the Careers Service offer me?

Answer: The Careers Service has a team of experienced professionally qualified careers advisers who are available to provide free and impartial careers information, advice and guidance to young people and adults.  While this help is available throughout the year, it is even more important at exam results time that young people get access to good support and sound advice to enable them to make the right next step. Careers advisers can provide advice and guidance on a range of topics including, choosing a career, going to college, training opportunities, going to university, finding a job and how to write a CV.  Careers advisers are located in careers offices, Jobs and Benefits Offices and Jobcentres throughout Northern Ireland. We also have Careers Resource Centres in Belfast, Dungannon and Londonderry.


Question: I did not achieve the required results for my chosen universities.  What are my options?

Answer: There are a number of possibilities available and these will depend on your own individual circumstances so speak to your careers adviser regarding other options that might be best for you.  This could include an alternative degree course, a different university or college, alternative qualifications, an apprenticeship, employment or self employment, volunteering, a gap year or maybe re-sits. You can also discuss with your school the possibility of re-marks.

Question: I hear that there are very few jobs for graduates. Is there any value in going to university and studying for a further 3 or 4 years?

Answer: The job situation for graduates is difficult this year but indications are that the current economic situation is temporary. It is important, therefore, that you base your career decisions on future potential rather than the current circumstances. Researching the labour market and future trends will help you understand where the opportunities are likely to be and help you make informed career decisions. There are many sources of Labour Market Information out there. Labour Market Information , including the Industry Factsheets,is available on the Careers Service website ( or by contacting a careers adviser on 0300 200 7820.


Question: I want to stay on at school but I did not attain enough GCSEs to take my ‘A’ Levels, what can I do?

Answer:Take stock of your current situation. Some points to be aware of: -

  • Do your GCSE grades reflect your academic potential?
  • Are you sure that ‘A’ Levels are the best route for you?
  • Should you consider remarks or re-sits?  Your school can help in the first instance with this option.
  • Even though you did not receive the desired grades, your school may still be willing to allow you to enter 6th form to do ‘A’ Levels. Speak to your school as this decision is based on each individuals circumstances.
  • You may be able to go to a different school to do ‘A’ Levels as entry requirements vary dramatically from school to school.
  • Consider whether you can achieve your career goals by studying an alternative course to ‘A’ levels?

Think carefully. Discuss your plans with your careers adviser who will discuss all the options open to you.

Question: What can I do at a Further Education college?

Answer: Further Education colleges offer you the opportunity to study from a wide range of full time courses to suit your career path. You can choose from a range of options including ‘A’ Levels, GCSE, NVQ, BTEC First and National qualifications, etc. Your careers adviser would be happy to talk you through the options in Further Education Colleges. Colleges hold information and advice days once the results are issued. It would be a good idea to find out when these are and attend on the day to get more details. To locate your nearest FE College log on to

Question: Is there any financial support if I decide to go to a Further Education college or to remain at school?

Answer: If you decide to stay on at school or go to a Further Education college in Northern Ireland you may be entitled to an Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA). EMA is a fortnightly payment of up to £60 and paid directly to young people from households with an income of £33,950 or less who stay on in education.  Further information on EMA is available at or by phone on 0845 601 7646.

Question: What about training?

Answer: If you would prefer a more practical route to the job of your choice then training is an option to consider. Training for Success provides you with an opportunity to gain the skills necessary for employment. It lets you enter at the level that matches your needs, develops your employability skills and allows you to gain nationally recognised qualifications.  However, as you learn skills and get into work, you can move to higher levels. It gives you a flexible way of working with employers and training suppliers to ensure that you get quality training. You will receive an allowance of £40 per week. For more information log onto

ApprenticeshipsNI gives you the opportunity to achieve nationally recognised skills and qualifications while in employment.  Further information can be obtained from

Question: Is employment an option?

Answer: If you really feel that full time education or training is not for you, employment may be an option.  In the current economic situation job opportunities for school leavers may be limited. In the ‘How to find a job’ section on the Careers Service website you will find lots of useful information on how to find a job and where the jobs are advertised. Vacancies are also advertised in JobCentres, Jobs and Benefits offices, online at, in local and provincial newspapers and through recruitment agencies. Careers advisers can provide help with job hunting skills, completing job applications and CVs and with preparation for interviews.

More information and details on how to contact your local careers adviser are available on the Careers Service website or by ringing 0300 200 7820. 

Belfast Telegraph


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