The top UK employers for school leavers have been announced

  • Becky Kells
  • Last updated 11 Oct 2018

The UK’s top employers for school leavers were revealed last night, when the results of a nationwide survey were announced.


Early careers experts AllAboutSchoolLeavers conducted its sixth annual ranking of UK employers for school leavers, looking at the real-life experiences of apprentices and school leaver trainees from 100 UK organisations. The results were unveiled at the School Leaver Awards 2018 at London’s Sheraton Grand Park Lane hosted by Josh Widdicombe, supported by Laing O’Rourke, on Thursday 17 May.

The winners included high profile names from the arts and media, professional services industry, the world of construction and engineering, retail giants, and city councils.

They’ve all been recognised for their exemplary work in developing school leaver opportunities: Intermediate Apprenticeships, Advanced Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeships, Degree Apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and sponsored degrees.

Bentley Motors was named Top Employer for School Leavers – as well as winning / being named runner-up in three other categories – while Verity Jackson won School Leaver of the Year, a mechanical engineering apprentice at DSTL, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory ensuring that innovative science and technology contribute to the defence and security of the UK.

For the first time a Top Employer in Media & the Arts was awarded – won by MediaCom – as well as the new Diversity & Inclusion Award, won by Mazars.

Young people working in the school leaver training world were asked to complete employee satisfaction surveys, covering every aspect of their working lives, from job satisfaction and career progression, to company culture and work/life balance.

Industry-specific categories acknowledged the top employers in their particular fields, for example Top Employer – Public Sector, Top Employer – Media & the Arts, and Top Employer – Accounting & Professional Services.

The Most Innovative Recruitment Campaign award recognised organisations’ forward thinking recruitment methods using modern techniques such as WhatsApp campaigns and online media.

“Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s rankings, as well as to everyone who was shortlisted. We hope our annual awards continue to help young people make decisions about the future, and that the new categories – like our Top Employer in Media & the Arts and the Diversity & Inclusion awards – improve the guidance we can provide.” - Jack Denton, director and co-founder of 

A spokesperson from 2018’s Top Employer for School Leavers, Bentley Motors, said: "We're ecstatic to have won the overall award tonight - it highlights the hard work we put into our apprenticeship programmes, of which we are very proud"

Verity Jackson of DSTL, who was voted School Leaver of the Year, said: "I can't believe I've won - I didn't think I was going to, but I'm really pleased, especially because a small company like DSTL got the recognition. I've loved my time as an apprentice so far and I'm so glad that I chose to do this route". 

The winners in full:

Top Employer

Bentley Motors

Best Intermediate Apprenticeship

Laing O’Rourke

Best Advanced Apprenticeship

National Grid

Best Higher Apprenticeship


Best Degree Apprenticeship

Goldman Sachs

Best School Leaver Programme


Top Employer – Small School Leaver intake

Goldman Sachs

Top Employer – Medium School Leaver intake

Bentley Motors

Top Employer – Large School Leaver intake


Best Website (shortlisted by student panel)


Best Social Media (shortlisted by student panel)

Jaguar Land Rover

The Diversity & Inclusion Award (shortlisted by expert panel)


Best Training


Best Training Provider

Moore Stephens

Best for Skills Development

Grant Thornton

Best Level of Support


Best for Career Progression


Best Job Satisfaction


Best Company Culture


Best Recruitment Campaign (shortlisted by expert panel)

Marks & Spencer & AIA Worldwide

Best School Engagement in a Recruitment Campaign (shortlisted by expert panel)

Tata Steel

Most Innovative Recruitment Campaign (shortlisted by expert panel)


Industry-specific awards:

Top Employer - Accounting & Professional Services

Moore Stephens

Top Employer – Automotive

Bentley Motors

Top Employer - Banking & Financial Services

Goldman Sachs

Top Employer – Construction

Laing O'Rourke

Top Employer - Energy & Utilities

National Grid

Top Employer – Engineering

Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains

Top Employer - Health & Social Care

Busy Bees Training Academy

Top Employer - Hospitality & Tourism


Top Employer - IT & Technology


Top Employer – Law


Top Employer – Media & the Arts


Top Employer - Public Sector

London Borough of Hackney

Top Employer - Retail


Top Employer - Science & FMCG

STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Judging Panel:

Jonathan Ledger  – Chief Executive Officer, The Global Skills Ledger

Sharon Stephens  – Head of Member and Business Development, UK Chamber of Shipping

Steve Nash – Chief Executive, The Institute of the Motor Industry

Stephen Isherwood – CEO, Institute of Student Employers

Robert West – Programme Director, Creative and Cultural Skills

Nick Ellins – Chief Executive, Energy & Utility Skills

Amy Gough – Director of Operations, Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)

Suki Kalirai – Chairman, Institute for Apprenticeships

Sue Hurst – Head of Schools Outreach Programmes, Civil Service



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