GCSEs do not have to be the end of learning
For many 16 year olds the progression from GCSEs to A-levels is trouble-free and obvious.
Others, though, might not have achieved the necessary grades, or might find academia is no longer for them.
What choices remain?
For 20%, it seems, not many. This proportion of the age group is neither in education nor in employment, according to David Bell, the chief inspector of schools.
For those who wish to learn a skill or trade, the modern apprenticeship system is in place.
'Helped me personally'
It allows young people to learn "on-the-job" up to the age of 24, often while attending day-release courses at college.
The Learning and Skills Council, which deals with state education and skills training for those 16 and older, is attempting to recruit 73,000 more apprentices.
Kerry-Ann Harrison, who works on the benefit counter at the Army and Navy store in Victoria, south London, has also studied for a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in retail under the scheme.
She said: "Studying for the NVQ was absolutely brilliant. I really enjoyed learning the key skills as I had to deliver a presentation to the management of the Army & Navy.
"It was really nerve-racking but I'm really proud of my achievement. The modern apprenticeship has really helped me personally with my literacy and numeracy skills.
Chef Jamie Oliver learned his skills on a modern apprenticeship
"I also really enjoy my job because I meet new people every day."
Old gender attitudes die hard, though. Men still account for 99% of the modern apprenticeships in construction and 96% in engineering. With childcare, a far less lucrative profession, 97% are women.
The Equal Opportunities Commission says choices made at 16 or slightly older could have a detrimental effect on future earnings.
Deputy chairman Jenny Watson said: "Young people have to make difficult choices about their futures at this age, making decisions about courses and training schemes that will probably shape the rest of their lives.
'Jobs for the boys'
"This can be made even tougher if they come up against other people's stereotypical ideas about what sort of work they should do.
"The day that no-one gives it a second thought if the plumber who turns up on their doorstep is a woman, or if the nursery worker they leave their child with is a man, will be the day we know women and men really do have an equal range of choices.
"There's no room for a 'jobs for the boys', or 'jobs for the girls' mentality in today's economy. There are severe shortages of skilled staff in all the sectors we are focusing on, which might be resolved if employers were able to recruit from a larger pool of people."
Mark Evans, of the LSC, added: "Exam results can be a tricky time, with many school-leavers not knowing what they really want to do.
"Modern apprenticeships offer a brilliant way of getting your foot on the career ladder, with a structured learning plan to ensure you end up with the right qualifications to see you go further in life."