Home / Current Affairs  / Business  / Jobs for school leavers – 10 of the UK’s top employers

Jobs for school leavers – 10 of the UK’s top employers

So you’ve made the decision that university isn’t for you and you’re going to look for a proper, actual job when you leave sixth form or college and you're probably hoping that there are companies

jobs for school leavers

So you’ve made the decision that university isn’t for you and you’re going to look for a proper, actual job when you leave sixth form or college and you’re probably hoping that there are companies out there who actually give jobs to school leavers.

Congratulations! You won’t be saddled with thousands of pounds’ worth of debt and you’ll get straight into earning some money, instead of having to scrape around in the bottom of your university halls cupboard to find a leftover Pot Noodle at the end of every term. You’re a smart cookie, you are.

Of course, first this means you need to actually go and find a job. But where do you start? Who actually wants to employ people without a degree and likely have next-to-no experience in the workplace?

That’s where The Llama is on hand to help – we’ve put together a list of the companies you could start looking at for job opportunities which don’t require a degree and favour school leavers.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and is in no particular order, but they’ve all been recognised as great employers of school leavers. Good luck!

So who gives jobs to school leavers?

1 – McDonald’s

Before you turn your nose up at this one, it doesn’t mean you’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life (though if you do want to do that, that’s also fine!).

McDonald’s has a number of schemes which school leavers could apply to – including its management degree apprenticeship programme which means you’re sponsored to do a degree in retail business management from Manchester Metropolitan University alongside doing on-the-job training. You’ll be sent to the university three or four times a year for block studying.

If you don’t fancy doing a degree at all, you could do an apprenticeship programme which takes around 12 month to complete. You’ll be given the opportunity to gain a hospitality team member apprenticeship (level 2) which is a nationally recognised qualification. You’ll gain practical work experience and learn new skills including planning, organisation, communication and decision-making.

You can search for jobs here.

2 – PwC

School leavers are a hugely important part of PwC’s workforce – last year it hired 1,345 graduates and school leavers.

There are a large number of routes into PwC via various school leaver programmes and it is focused on growing programmes such as apprenticeships, work experience placements and degree partnerships to ensure its workforce is diverse and inclusive.

A PwC spokesperson said:

“The number of routes to joining PwC is matched by the variety of jobs and opportunities within the company in areas such as accounting, tax, consulting, deals and technology across our 20 offices in the UK.

“We offer online employability training to everyone on our website to ensure everybody has the same opportunity to make the most of their abilities before interviewing and we offer substantial digital and face-to-face training in role.

“Our school leaver programmes are a great way for students to immediately gain access to the world of work and benefit from training from day one.”

You can search for jobs here.

3 – Virgin Media

Virgin Media has enrolled more than 1,500 apprentices since 2008 and in 2019, 94 per cent of its apprentices passed first time. Almost half of its schemes are equivalent to earning a foundation degree and there are 15 fully-funded schemes to kickstart your career.

As part of its various apprenticeship schemes, Virgin Media is committed to helping talented people move onwards and upwards through the business. Its schemes are designed to develop your skills and knowledge, while giving you the experience and exposure you’ll need to grow a rewarding career.

Virgin Media has been named as a top employer by RateMyPlacement, TheJobCrowd and AllAboutSchoolLeavers.

You can search for jobs here.

4 – National Grid

National Grid is at the heart of energy transmission and powering homes and businesses across the nation.

Its apprentices, undergraduates and graduates are at the heart of its ambitions and the company says it is always looking for new talent to invite to its ranks.

The National Grid new talent programmes usually open in September for higher apprentices, advanced apprentices and training programmes. It has an education incentives policy which allows you to apply for funding and study leave to pursue academic qualifications.

It also works with MyPlus students’ club to offer specialist careers advice to students with a disability or health condition. This involves helping students identify and realise new possibilities regardless of their backgrounds.

You can search for jobs here.

5 – Santander

A spokesperson from Santander said:

“At Santander we recognise the importance of supporting school leavers.

“Through our work experience and apprenticeship programmes we are able to educate, offer guidance and positively impact young people through the initial stages of their career, whilst also supporting our pipeline of future talent at Santander and supporting our local communities.”

Work experience at Santander has three programmes: 

  • The ‘Initiate’ programme offers students generally aged between 15 and 16 years the opportunity to spend one day at a head office sites including Bootle, Bradford, Leicester, London and Milton Keynes. During your day you will find out more about Santander as an employer and develop employability skills, focusing on areas such as assessment centre preparation, CV writing and reviewing a digital footprint
  • The ‘Evolve’ programme offers a one-week business insight placement to young people for those typically aged between 15 to 17 years. This opportunity allows students to understand more about the world of work
  • The ‘Flourish’ programme offers a four-week business placement to students generally aged between 17 to 19 years. During the placement the students will have the opportunity to experience working at Santander, getting involved in a variety of projects

Santander also has a number of apprenticeship programmes which range from entry level to level 6, which gives young people the opportunity to develop academically while gaining hands-on business experience, building knowledge and skillset in a role aligned to your apprenticeship programme.

Santander currently runs schemes across areas including financial crime, corporate banking, customer interactions and human resources.

You can search for jobs here.

6 – MediaCom

MediaCom is a leading business which helps people and brands unlock growth potential through media including planning, implementation and buying.

It has been praised and has won awards for its bespoke early talent scheme, which lasts for 18 months and is designed to produce the leaders of the future. The programme is tailored to each individual and you will have the opportunity to spend time in different departments such as planning, buying or digital.

Your learning and development is supported through the scheme and you can even study a digital marketing qualification completed during working hours and study time. 

You can search for jobs here.

7 – Bentley

Bentley is the most sought-after luxury car brand in the world and is always looking for new recruits, with an emphasis on finding candidates with the digital skills and ability to help shape its next 100 years.

It opened its applications for its apprentice, undergraduate and graduate intakes in January. There are positions on offer and last year 49 apprentices were hired.

There are roles available in digital, information technology, sales and marketing, human resources, engineering and manufacturing. All employees will benefit from a structured career path which provides technical, hands-on and academic experience.

Last year careers guidance company AllAboutSchoolLeavers named Bentley as the number one employer in the automotive industry for school leavers in the UK.

Dr Astrid Fontaine, member of the board for people, digitalisation and IT at Bentley Motors, said:

“An extraordinary range of opportunities are available, designed to drive our business forward and help build Bentley’s exciting future.

“Engaging and developing the very best trainees in the country is key to ensuring Bentley remains the definitive British luxury car company, as well as one that stays true to extraordinary craftsmanship, innovation and sustainable solutions.”

You can search for jobs here.

8 – TUI

TUI UK and Ireland is the UK’s largest tour operator and owns brands such as Thomson and First Choice, operating with six different airlines.

The company runs a higher apprenticeship in business and professional administration at level 4. This is a two-year programme where one year will be spent in the product department and the other year will be spent within TUI’s trading teams.

There are opportunities for secondments throughout the apprenticeship to gather further commercial knowledge outside of these departments. There are many opportunities for development from team projects and companywide training schemes to sustainability and employee wellbeing.

You can search for jobs here.

9 – IBM

IBM offers a wide range of apprenticeship pathways and has almost 300 apprentices currently on its programme.

As well as offering degree apprenticeships in digital and technology solutions and chartered business management in partnership with six different universities, the company runs a 12-month school leavers placement programme.

It’s called the ‘Futures’ programme which has proven to offer a great pre-apprenticeship placement opportunity, offering a ‘try before you buy’ approach to some of IBM’s most popular apprenticeships.

Its apprenticeship roles can be found across all elements of IBM’s UK business, including technical and business services, Watson, Cloud, UK labs, HR, marketing and sales. Within a month of joining as an apprentice, a new hire will already be immersed in the company’s business and culture – working with real clients, developing real projects, and perhaps most importantly, working alongside some of the most experienced and capable teams in UK technology.

Jenny Taylor, IBM’s UK foundation leader, said:

“IBM’s a great place for school leavers to kick start their career because we have created a programme whereby our Apprentices can progress from level 3 to level 6 qualifications: a ‘ladder of opportunity’.

“Apprenticeships are a key component of our early professionals’ workforce strategy and our vision is to ensure that apprentices grow into valuable client facing resource and future leaders of IBM. We are looking for enthusiastic, driven and innovative individuals, with a passion for business and technology. These are the type of people who will thrive in IBM.”

You can search for jobs here.

10 – EY

EY is a top employer of apprentices and graduates – but it offers the EY school leaver programme as an alternative to university that can lead to the same professional qualification you would get as a graduate (and you could possibly qualify even sooner than a graduate).

The company’s five-year training programme lets you join EY straight after school or college and from day one you’ll gain valuable experience, earn a salary and build networks.

The EY School Leaver programme is a 5-year structured training programme that includes:

  • Two professional qualifications: the globally-recognised ICAEW Certificate in Finance and Business (CFAB) followed by a second professional qualification linked to your chosen service line – assurance, transactions or tax
  • Challenging work on a diverse range of projects and clients
  • Study leave: time out of the office to prepare for your exams
  • On-the-job coaching, your own career counsellor and a dedicated team to support you through your professional studies
  • A tailored induction alongside our graduate recruits to introduce you to senior people in EY and help you settle into the business
  • A host of transferable business skills

You can search for jobs here.


* All companies were asked to provide a comment as part of this article, but not all responded.

Sian Elvin is the editor of The Llama. She enjoys drinking gin, hanging upside down and stroking llamas.

Review overview