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Employing School Leavers: The Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide For School Leavers

With extortionate tuition fees and the declining value of degrees, a rapidly growing number of young people are going straight into work. Experience the benefits of employing school leavers with this handy guide. 

With many careers not requiring a degree, universities aren’t fit for purpose. Stigmas are fading, helping school leavers feel less like they’re ‘going against the grain’ when choosing to go straight to work. Young people are an untapped pool of talent that quickly grow into capable employees that are ambassadors of your brand. Employers across the country are benefiting from hiring young people. Ensure your business doesn’t miss out and arm yourself with all the information you need to maximise the chances of successful school leaver employment. 

What’s a ‘school leaver’?

A school leaver is anyone that’s left full-time education, often after GCSEs or A-Levels.

The Guardian reports that nearly half of young people go onto university, leaving the remaining half – approximately 1.6 million school leavers a year – looking for employment. 

Why should you hire school leavers?

School leavers are a fantastic asset to businesses. They’re eager to learn and pick up new skills quickly. Still under some misconceptions? We’re here to bust them.

3 key benefits of hiring school leavers:

  • Gain a loyal employee. As young people grow with your business, so does their loyalty, making their retention rates higher than your average employee. 
  • Plug your skill gaps. Often a school leavers’ first office job, their skillset is moldable to meet your talent needs. 
  • Change lives. When hiring a school leaver, the impact that you make on their life is immeasurable – it only takes a few months for you to see them flourish.

“Apprentices learn fast and we have been able to develop our best ones from simple desktop support tasks through to project work and looking after teams of people over the course of a few months.”

– David Abensour, CTO of Blenheim Chalcot

The impact on the school leaver

Meet Jemma. She completed her digital marketing apprenticeship at the leading advertising agency IPG Mediabrands and explains why she chose not to go to university.

Meet Jemma, an IPG Mediabrands apprentice | Arch Apprentices

Meet Joe. He talks about his experience completing his level 3 and level 4 apprenticeship with Agilisys.

Meet Joe, an Agilisys apprentice | Arch Apprentices

Meet Rami. He completed his digital marketing apprenticeship with Google and explains what it’s like being an apprentice with a global company.

Meet Rami, a Google apprentice | Arch Apprentices

Meet Molly. She was an apprentice with Google and shares her experience working at one of the largest companies in the world.

Meet Molly, a Google apprentice | Arch Apprentices

The impact on the line manager


Joseph Hollans Quote

Alex Norman Quote

The impact on businesses

Leading Media Agency takes on Arch Apprentices

A report commissioned by Health Education England revealed that the NHS’ employability programme – a scheme that includes training and work experience for people to develop essential skills – had caused:

  • Up to a 9% reduction in staff turnover
  • Up to a 2% reduction in staff absences
  • The employment of 52% of those on the programme into permanent positions
  • The participants’ commitment to grow by 43%

Recruiting and on-boarding school leavers

3 tips when creating a job description that attracts school leavers

  • Use simple language. The language in the job description should be easy to read and jargon-free.
  • Have realistic expectations. Only include the essential candidate requirements. Even if a Maths A-Level at A* is only ‘beneficial’. School leavers will read it as a deal-breaker.  
  • Be open to different types of applications. We’ve seen success when clients offer alternative application methods, as it’s a better indicator of the candidate’s abilities. Ask candidates to record a short video of themselves or to complete a project. 

3 tips for the recruitment and employment of school leavers

  • Adjust the interview process. For some school leavers, this will be their first formal interview. Having multiple interview stages can be overwhelming, so it’s best to stick to a maximum of two stages.
  • Tailor their on-boarding. The on-boarding of a school leaver can make or break their experience. The entire process will be new to them, so provide them with a longer than usual on-boarding process to ensure they settle in. 
  • Provide extra support. The school leaver’s line manager is key to their success. Before recruitment for the school leaver has even begun, their line manager must be fully briefed on the extent of support they’ll need to provide, and the time commitments that it comes with.

The technicalities of employing a school leaver

When can school leavers legally start employment?

Children can start working at 13 years old, however, they must be of school leaving age to be employed full-time. 

In England, young people can leave school on the last Friday in June if they’re 16 by the end of the summer holidays. However, they must be in part-time education or training until they’re 18. This includes:

  • Continuing with their education in sixth form or college
  • Starting an apprenticeship/traineeship
  • Working/volunteering for 20 hours or more a week while in training or part-time education

Find out about the devolved nations’ school leaving ages

What’s the best method of employing school leavers?

A structured training programme, like an apprenticeship, bridges the gap between education and a full-time job. School leavers favour apprenticeships over going straight into work because they’re still hungry to learn, just not in a classroom.

The extra support apprentices receive also give school leavers the confidence to make the jump into full-time employment. Knowing that they won’t be expected to have prior knowledge and experience makes apprenticeships an appealing first-time job

An apprenticeship offers your business:

  • A recruitment and on-boarding process that’s tailored for school leavers
  • A coach from your training provider that supports you, your line managers and your apprentices
  • A sustainable method of building your talent pipeline from the ground up. 

What’s the school leaver minimum wage?

Once a child turns 16 years old, they’re entitled to £4.36 p/a and you’ll need to record their salary as part of running payroll. Once they earn over £118 p/w, other PAYE tasks will need to be carried out. Once they reach 18, they’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage. 

If apprentices are:

  • 18 or under
  • 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

They’re entitled to the Apprentice Minimum Wage of £3.90 p/a. If they’re:

  • 19 and over


  • Have completed the first year of their apprenticeship

They’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage. 

What are the restrictions when employing young workers?

Young workers are defined as those over school leaving age and under 18

There are some differences when employing a school leaver that’s aged 16-17.

  • They can only legally work for eight hours a day (or 40 hours per week) 
  • They usually can’t work overnight shifts…


  • An adult (18+) isn’t available to do the work
  • The extra work  won’t affect their training
  • You give them extra time to make up for it
  • It’s very busy and they’re essential in keeping service running
  • They’re supervised by an adult (if necessary)

Providing breaks for school leavers

Young workers are entitled to the following breaks:

  • Half an hour rest if they’ve worked more than 4.5 hours
  • A daily rest of 12 hours
  • A weekly rest of 48 hours

Except if:

  • There isn’t an adult to cover their work
  • Their work is temporary and has to be carried out now

Alcohol at your premises

You’re still able to employ a young worker even if there’s alcohol on your premises. However, it’s still illegal to:

  • Serve someone under 18 alcohol
  • Buy alcohol on their behalf
  • Allow them to drink alcohol on your premises

If you allow your adult employees to drink alcohol on the premises, then make all those involved in the buying and distribution of the alcohol aware of who the young worker is.

Typically alcohol is part of the social side of a company, so it’s important to make an effort to ensure young workers aren’t left out. Buying a different treat for them (like a fizzy drink when buying the beers) or creating rewards that don’t involve alcohol can help prevent them from feeling left out.

Your next steps

Arch Apprentices have been supporting businesses in finding their next-generation talent since 2012. Develop a sustainable pipeline of talent that meets your skill needs; rises through the ranks and stays with your business longer. 

The Apprenticeship Levy is your cost-effective method of providing your entry-level employees with exciting industry training. Offer your workforce the opportunity to gain their CIPD, ACCA, Squared Online or CompTIA qualifications, as well as many other certifications, through Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ apprenticeships. 

What you need to do:

  • Speak to department heads and scope out your talent gaps
  • Work with your finance team to understand how much levy funding you have available
  • Get in touch with a RoATP-approved training provider (like Arch) to begin your levy planning process 

Speak to an expert today to find out more information, or to begin tackling your levy head-on. Email support@avadolearning.com or call 020 3906 7116.  

Stephanie Khan

Posted August 12, 2019