The Department for the Economy’s Careers Service is here to help, providing impartial advice and guidance on a range of career options, including further and higher education, apprenticeships, training, employment and voluntary work opportunities.

Receiving exam results often presents a crossroads and making informed decisions is imperative to effective career planning.

Head of the Careers Service, Frances O’Hara explains: “It is important that those receiving exam results or making decisions about their next steps on their career paths have all the relevant information about future education, training and employment opportunities.   

“If you need immediate advice following results, you can talk to a careers advisor online using our instant messaging facility which is available at the NIdirect Careers page The service is available from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. We have extended opening hours on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 August from 9.00am to 7.30pm to provide additional support for those getting their A level results.

“For GCSE results, the opening hours for this service have been extended from 9.00am to 7.30pm on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 August.

“Alternatively young people and parents can access a wealth of useful information including contact details of careers advisers throughout Northern Ireland at NIdirect

“You can also call 0300 200 7820 to speak directly to a careers adviser.”

Explaining the potential options available to young people, Frances added: “There are a number of choices available for those receiving their exam results at this time including;

  • Further Education (FE): FE offers a wide range of full and part time qualifications, including Foundation Degrees. The courses are geared towards preparing learners entering the world of work and the professional and technical qualifications have been developed in conjunction with employer bodies and are a strong first step to accessing different career paths.
  • Foundation Degrees (FDs) are professional and technical higher education qualifications, delivered by colleges and awarded by universities which integrate academic and work-related study. They offer an alternative progression route from A levels into higher education and an alternative route to a Bachelors degree. FDs are stand-alone qualifications with an emphasis on the development of skills in the workplace which will assist successful students in gaining suitable employment. You can contact your local FE College for more information visit the NIdirect FE page
  • Clearing/Alternative degree courses: If you have not been offered a place on your chosen course, you may be able to find a place at university on a similar course using UCAS clearing – see the NIdirect UCAS page This facility advertises vacant courses at universities across the UK. Your results may also cause you to re-think the courses you have already applied for.
  • Apprenticeships: The apprenticeship programme gives you the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ - to be in paid employment and achieve nationally recognised skills and qualifications in a variety of occupations.  Learning takes place both ‘on the job’ and ‘off the job’ working towards the achievement of an industry approved qualification. Apprenticeship training is delivered at your local further education college and by a number of other contracted training suppliers. Check the NIdirect Skills page.

“This is an important time for all young people and I would encourage them to make sure they have all the relevant information to ensure they make the decisions right for them and their future career path.”

EXAM RESULTS – Frequently asked questions    

Students across Northern Ireland are receiving exam results and, depending upon the results received, asking themselves ‘Where do I go from here?’ Frances O’Hara responds to the Department for the Economy’s Careers Service frequently asked questions.

Q.  What can the Careers Service offer me?

A. Professionally qualified careers advisers provide young people and adults with impartial advice and guidance on a range of career related issues, including apprenticeships, further and higher education, training, employment and voluntary work opportunities. Careers advisers use labour market information and knowledge of the skills and qualities employers need to inform the guidance process.

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

A. If you are unclear or confused about your next move particularly if you did not get the grades you had hoped for, you can speak to a careers adviser. Careers guidance can play an important role in helping you understand the qualification and training requirements of your preferred career, identify routes to achieving your career goals and help you decide on your next steps.

There are a number of possibilities available and these will depend on your own individual circumstances. Options could include an alternative degree course, an apprenticeship, foundation degree courses, alternative qualifications, employment/self-employment or even a gap year.

Q.  Where will future jobs be?

A.  A number of sectors have been identified by the Department for the Economy as important in rebuilding and rebalancing the economy.  These sectors all need skilled and qualified staff and you may wish to think about this when considering your future career options. These sectors are ICT, Business and Financial Services, Advanced Engineering, Advanced Manufacturing and Materials, Agri Foods, Health and Life Sciences, Renewable Energy and Recycling and Creative Industries and Digital Media.

Further information on these and other sectors is available at the Skills in Demand page on NIdirect and from careers advisers.

Q. What can I do at a Further Education (FE) college?

A. Further Education colleges offer a range of academic, professional and technical qualifications as well as training courses. You can choose from a range of full and part time options including Apprenticeships, Foundation Degrees, Extended Diplomas and Higher Level Apprenticeships etc. You can find out more at the Further Education page on NIdirect

Q. What about training?

A.  Apprenticeships - there are many benefits of following an apprenticeship qualification including earning while you learn. You are trained to a quality standard in your chosen occupational area. Learning takes place both ‘On the job’ and ‘Off the job’ working towards the achievement of an industry approved qualification. Further information can be obtained from Apprenticeships at Nidirect

Our FE colleges and universities in partnership with local employers also offer new Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) opportunities, which can help you develop professional and technical skills, as well as gaining recognised higher qualifications while in paid employment. Further information can be obtained from the Nidirect

In addition, DfE’s Training for Success programme provides young people with the tools and confidence they need to find work. It offers training to help you gain the recognised skills, experiences and qualifications to help you progress into your chosen career. For further information go to the Nidirect

Q.  Is employment an option?

A. If you feel that full time education or training is not for you, employment may be an option. Careers advisers can help you to perfect your job search skills, help with job applications and CVs and to prepare for interviews.

To contact a Careers Adviser you can:

Chat with a careers adviser online at Nidirect call 0300 200 7820 or go online to find your nearest office.

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