Many school leavers spend at least some of their gap year travelling before embarking on further study at university or beginning their chosen career. Travelling the world, however, needs financing and taking a course at a business and secretarial college can help to do just that. Fast keyboarding and good IT skills are a real asset at university; in the meantime, they can open the door to temping, which will give valuable work experience while funding other projects or travel plans. For example, a student who goes on to temp can expect to earn between £8 and £10 an hour in London. After university, competition for jobs can be fierce and employers increasingly expect prospective graduates to already have work experience in an office environment.

An example of the type of business-oriented gap year opportunities available in London is the one-term business skills course offered at Queen's. It covers a range of office skills and makes students familiar with the leading software packages. Students completing this course have keyboard and shorthand speeds that meet the requirements of temping agencies, while optional modules within the course allow students to concentrate on a particular area such as the media, The City or internet skills. Alternatively, there are intensive IT and business skills short courses, which enable students to acquire and polish particular skills.

Not going on to university?

University is not the right career path for everyone. You may prefer to pursue a career more directly after school. One way to prepare for this would be to opt for a two- or three-term course to bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace, enabling you to gain confidence and join your chosen career ladder a few rungs higher up. Queen's offers a number of options of this kind: the three-term marketing and business skills diploma, which follows the London Chamber of Commerce level 3 syllabus, and the two-term executive and personal assistant diploma, designed to equip you with the full range of business skills.

Many courses and colleges concentrate on drilling IT and keyboard skills. We prefer to place those skills in context, enabling you to acquire the vital administrative know-how that will enable you to enter the workplace.

Finding a job

Job-search skills are an integral part of all our courses. Students are given training in preparing a CV, writing covering letters, interview technique and the importance of personal presentation. In addition, employment consultants and representatives of employers regularly visit to talk to students about the wide range of opportunities available.

The longer courses all provide an element of work experience, usually for two weeks in a professional or commercial organisation. Such work placements provide valuable experience for students hoping to obtain employment in a business environment. On a recent marketing diploma course, 6 of the 10 students were offered jobs directly from their work experience.

Living in London

It is necessary, of course, to plan ahead for accommodation, especially if you are starting a course in September when thousands of other students are hunting for somewhere affordable to live. Many students live at home or stay with relatives; others share a flat with friends already living in London. Another option is hostel accommodation. Queen's, for example, has contact with Lee Abbey International Students' Club, a hostel just off Cromwell Road. It is friendly and comfortable and has a good social programme for residents.

Looking ahead

Gap years should be fun. Why not also use yours to boost your future career?

Taking a gap year presents a great opportunity to broaden your horizons. Why not spend part of your year in London and gain some practical skills, suggests Corinne Bickford, executive principal at Queen's Business & Secretarial College

For further information

Details of courses available at Queen's can be found on the website at:

Alternatively, telephone: 020 7589 8583

You can explore several Gap Year ideas at: