The UK government’s ambition to get as many school leavers into university as possible is admirable. However it comes at a cost – young people increasingly get the impression that university is the only way to go if they have ambition; equally those who don’t have the academic skills may feel inadequate, that they have failed before they have even begun.

In our drive to make the UK a service driven economy we seem to have forgotten that there is still a need for people who make something – the huge influx of workers from Central and Eastern Europe makes it only too clear that these opportunities exist, and schools need to remember that when they’re preparing our children for the future.

We all have an obligation to make sure that our children achieve all that they can. We need to remember, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that university is the only way. The UK economy still requires motivated individuals in primary and secondary industries – we cannot allow these industries to become the exclusive domain of the “no-hopers”, because in doing so we will accelerate their demise.

Companies like Roperhurst have been employing school leavers since its formation in 1976. Its current MD, Bob Lane, joined the company straight from school 29 years ago. Roperhurst is actively looking for more people in this mold – people prepared to learn, advance, manage and lead. It is absolutely vital that government, educators and parents remind their children that university is not the only way, that there are outlets for ambition in other areas, and that leaving education at 16+ should not necessarily mean the end of career prospects.

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