It’s not all plain sailing

With all this talk about NEET – Not in Employment Education or Training – I thought it might be interesting to reflect upon my own recent experience as a father of two teenage boys – 17 and 19.

Our eldest collected a good set of Higher results (2 As, 2 Bs, 2 Cs) and set off for Edinburgh University in September of last year to study Physical Education. Right from the word go he didn’t enjoy the course and it soon became apparent that it wasn’t for him. He hung on until January but we were proud of him when he made the difficult decision to leave. Since then he’s been working on a variety of odd jobs – mostly labouring – with the aim of earning enough money to help him go off on a diving expedition to Fiji in the New Year. He has also been taking this time to consider what he wants to do with the rest of his life and has decided that he’d like to go back to Edinburgh to study Accountancy (he loved Edinburgh).

Of course he’s now terrified that he might make the wrong choice again. His solution has been to apply for a trainee position at a local accountancy company for the coming year.  He was interviewed today and starts on Monday in a salaried post. The great thing about this is that it will give a tremendous insight into the profession, provide him with set of skills and knowledge which he might put to good use at university, but most importantly allow him to make an informed decision about whether accountancy is for him or not.

It’s strange that only two weeks ago he had said that he would like to have had a crystal ball -to help him see what he might be doing in the future – well it looks like his crystal ball has materialised.

All this makes me think that going to university straight out of sixth year is not for all young people. I’m not advocating gap years but I’m convinced that some “life” experiences prior to committing to any course of study would certainly of benefit.

And his brother? – well we reckon that he’s a success story in his own right – never really very academically focussed – he crashed and burned in his Standard Grades -but he got 2 Bs and a C in his Highers, and an A in Intermediate 2 English this week – due to some really hard studying and a Learning Log on which he kept all his notes.  He hopes to get another three Highers in 6th year and he probably will – due in no small part to his self belief that studying can work. 

His plans? – well he’s off to New Zealand this time next year to play rugby – which he’s had in mind since he was 12 years old – now that’s what I call forward planning !!!

7 thoughts on “It’s not all plain sailing

  1. I had wished that I hadn’t gone straight to university after sixth year. In Dunoon doing that was seen as stretching your horizons so I never thought of anything else. But two years in I nearly crashed and burned. It was studying for a year in France – having a huge change and having to really survive alone – that made me realise what it was all for. I think in that one year I did the equivalent of three years’ uni work to catch up.

    That said, I’ve already had five or six completely different blogs in the last eight years. Most people would say that showed someone who didn’t know what they wanted, but I think it’s going to be rare for anyone to stay doing what they thought they wanted to do when they were 17. I wanted to be an interpreter, then an investment banker, then spent a year visiting the officers’ mess for my RCB.

    Best of luck to both your sons: they’ve already got the main things that keep you going regardless of what happens elsewhere in your life. Their family.

  2. Ewan

    I wonder how many career changes you will go onto have in the rest of your life? I’m sure from memory that someone your age will have at least another 5 career shifts to make.

    Whereas , I’ve never been in anything but education. Perhaps that’s the biggest shift between the generations?

  3. Going to University straight after school was certainly the right decision for me. Although I was very young, I knew that if I had taken a year out, I would have found going back to studying very hard. However, for my younger brother, taking a year out before going to University was definitely the right decision.

    Sometimes I feel that too much emphasis can be placed on going to University these days. Although there are certain professions that do require a degree, there are many opportunities for school leavers that are equally as valuable. That said, the four years I spent at University were some of the best years of my life.

    Incidentally, the Marine life around the reefs of Fiji is absolutely amazing! Probably the best I have ever seen.

  4. The thinking is that the generation leaving school now may have up to 8 career changes in their working life – whatever that will look like in the future. On one hand this could be interpreted as “cannae stick at anything” as my Nana would have said. On the other hand it probably shows that nowadays people who are more aware of themselves,their strengths and values will keep making changes to use them wisely. Just like your rugby playing son – what a dream come true for him. And while he is playing rugby he will be learning a whole load of things that he will be able to use when his rugby days are done.
    And your soon to be accountant son – I know a lot of accountants ( my husband being one) by training who are in much broader fields than “accounting” .
    Don – you say you have never been in anything but education – but I bet your job now is quite different from your first post!

  5. Krysia

    I was thinking about that post when I wrote about my son’s experiences.


    Looks like Fiji will be on hold for a year – but he still intends to go


    You’re right – 7 different jobs/posts in 27 years – but all in education.

    Maybe I cannae stick at anything?

  6. Your comments confirm the value of the programmes we offer for senior pupils such as LEAPS, Pathways to the Professions and the summer schools based at Universities in Edinburgh (SET – Science Engineering and Technology and Kickstart – a broad based 1 week course). These programmes offer excellent opportunities for senior pupils to find out more about specific career opportunites and university life in general. Is higher education really for me or would I rather be a plumber?
    For those interested the links are:
    Pathways to the Professions:

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