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Choices at 16

16 is a key time in your life for making decisions. 

Changes are in the pipeline to increase the age at which young people in England can leave learning – see Important Note below.

What options are available?

There are lots of choices facing young people at 16. A young person can stay at school, go to college or take up an apprenticeship or part-time training course. You can earn money and a new skill at the same time.

The main qualifications available are:

  • Diplomas: providing the background for a range of careers
  • Vocational qualifications: for young people who already know what career they want to follow and need training for specific jobs
  • A levels: offered as specific mainly academic subjects
  • International Baccalaureate: offering a wider range of subjects than A levels
  • Functional Skills: This qualification can continue to form part of the Diploma, Foundation Learning and included in some Apprenticeship frameworks
  • Foundation Learning: has been developed for low attaining 14-19 year olds to help raise participation, attainment and progress

Consider career pathways

At 16, many young people may still not have a definite career in mind but now is a good time to give some thought to career pathways that might be of interest.  Think about your favourite subjects and discuss with your teacher potential careers that might suit you.  What are your skills and interests outside school.  It is important to do some research. If you already have a career in mind it is sensible to check if there any specific qualification entry requirements.  Check if there is a Sector Skills Council, professional body, trade association that looks after your area of interest as many will have careers websites that provide advice on career pathways.


AS-levels/A-levels or Highers in Scotland can provide a route to university or a professional qualification and can open the door to a huge range of careers.  A-levels/Highers can be studied at school, sixth form colleges or college of further education.

A-levels/Highers are the main gateway to university, so are important for those of you considering studying for a degree. They are also an indicator, on their own, to employers that the young person is prepared to work hard and have a high level of capability.

What subjects you choose to study post-16 can have a major impact on what you can study at degree level and universities to which you can apply.

In terms of a career in logistics and transport subjects like geography, maths, physical and life sciences, economics, business studies and modern languages can be useful as these subjects help students to develop the range of skills that will make them attractive to employers in the sector.


There are apprenticeship opportunities in logistics and transport-related occupations, so it is worth visiting the apprenticeship websites to see what is available (there are separate sites for each of the four nations):

Direct Entry to Employment

Some companies will offer jobs to those leaving school at 16 and there are some recruitment agencies that specialise in helping young people find their first job – just search the internet to find a local specialist.

It is important to look for employers that will support career development.  Some companies may have opted not to offer apprenticeships but will offer entry level jobs with the opportunity to undertake vocationally-related qualifications at a local college or by distance learning.

To find job opportunities look at local newspapers – print version and most local newspapers usually have a website too.  Networking is also a good way to find out about potential job opportunities – many jobs are never advertised.

An entry level role is a good way to learn about a business.  Logistics and transport employers have a good track record of nurturing talent where they see it.  There are many examples of those now holding senior positions having started on the shopfloor as a warehouse operative or similar type role.

Sources of information

There’s plenty of information and guidance available on the internet.

Logistics and transport careers websites

  • People 1st and GoSkills merged in July 2011, which means that hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism fall under the same umbrella and can be accessed centrally at –

Government websites

The government careers information and guidance websites are organised by nation: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  However, not all the content is country-specific so it’s worth taking a look at all of them.

General careers and advice websites

 Some of these websites are aimed at young people in specific countries, however, some of the content will be relevant where you live.

  • developed as resource for careers, learning and schools information in Scotland but has some useful resources for those living outside Scotland
  •  includes chat and guidance on study options at 16.
  • this site includes some guidance on A-level/Highers options to secure a place at a Russell Group university (a group of 24 prestigious universities in the UK)
  • The Times 100 Careers Info includes guidance on the range of options at 16, including links to potential employers.
  • provides general information on options at 16.
  • the national youth information and citizenship charity for Scotland aimed at young people, aged 11-26.
  • this website offers guidance on options at key decision stages, this links to options at 16 and includes careers advice and links to the major professional associations.
  • A comprehensive university comparison site, offering students resources, tools, student discounts and university stats and rankings. 
  • is our collection of university student finance articles, which tell students everything they need to know about student finance and also explains everything about student bursaries, grants and scholarships too


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