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Not all Gap Years have to be a Gap Yah

11th August 2011 Print
Certain travel choices can reaffirm or ignite a career choice

As A-level results are set to come out, employers and Matt Lacey, of Gap Yah comedy fame, outline why time spent abroad is no bad thing, and how a Gap Year experience can develop qualities required in the work place.

Over the past 12 months 'experts' have claimed that the ‘the Gap Year is dead’. Whilst it cannot be denied that the face of the Gap Year is changing, from the length of time spent away (the newly named Gap Stint) to the destinations most visited, it does not mean that this period of travel is a dying breed. A-level students, and even their future employers recognise the cultural and experiential benefits of stepping out from an all too familiar comfort zone and heading off on an adventure that will test necessary skill sets needed in adult life.

In a recent nationwide survey of over 500 UK businesses conducted by Real Gap Experience, nearly 1 in 2 employers of young graduates agreed that travel can demonstrate a candidate’s ability to act independently (61%), put themselves in different environments (53%) and feel comfortable meeting and engaging with new people (46%). These same employers listed independence, initiative and teamwork as the top qualities that they look for in the work place, clearly coinciding with those skills believed to be gained through experiential travel.

The research also demonstrated the need for a well-planned and structured year out. Employers will not be impressed if a Gap Year has been spent in a non-stop haze of hangovers. Instead, recruiters want their perspective employees to show their worth and use their time away in a constructive manner. 42% of UK business’ now believe that non-academic experience is more valuable than 10 years ago, with 1 in 2 Employers conceding that voluntary work experience abroad has a positive impact on their decision to interview a candidate. The first thing that recruiters now look for on a CV is no longer academic qualifications but work experience instead, with 45% of employers looking at this first over 21% who look at academic qualifications.

Matt commented “Orlando and his ‘Gap Yah’ are a parody of the individuals that jet off on a year abroad and see the world through beer goggles, but this doesn’t mean that all gappers are treating their time away like a scene out of the Hangover 2. The period between burning your books after A levels and opening a new chapter either at University or in the working world, could be a life enhancing opportunity to get under the skin of different countries and discover more about yourself and about the world than you will have done in PSHE or Geography.”

Matt continues, “Very few people get another chance in life to take this sort of time out, so my advice is GO!! Learn from Orlando by doing the complete opposite of what he did. If you do a structured Gap Year or Stint with a reputable company such as Real Gap Experience or i-to-i Volunteering you can’t go wrong. I, like many young people, paid for my trip away by spending the first part of the year working (in my case as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant). With the incentive of such a spectacular trip away, it makes the hard graft of shifting plates and washing glasses all the more worthwhile.”

The world is quite literally the A level students oyster. Many will choose to go straight to University but despite the rise in tuition fees set to take place in 2012, a large amount of students have still opted to defer. According to UCAS, there’s only been a 20% dip in deferrals compared to last year; a lot less than they were expecting. It’s also important not to forget the 200,000 something students that lost out to a place at University in 2010. A Gap Year can also offer the opportunity to take stock, gain new experience, and decide from there what path to follow.

Sam Cox, Managing Director of Real Gap Experience comments “Whilst the Gap Year is constantly evolving, one thing remains the same; students want to see the world and gain new experiences. Every day they learn something new about a different part of the world, be it on the news, in a geography lesson or even from a Tweet written by one of their favourite celebrities; so why shouldn’t they go out and discover the world that they’ve been learning about.”

Sam continues, “From the survey we have learnt that initiative, independence and team work are the three main things recruiters look for in their future employees, all of which can be accrued on a Gap Year or Stint. With an estimated 80 graduates applying for every job, students need to choose carefully. They can work with animals, communities, learn a new language, teach a language or head to the opposite side of the world and join a program that will provide them with an opportunity to get paid to do something they love and even fund additional travel.”

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Certain travel choices can reaffirm or ignite a career choice Those who can, teach