From education to employment

A fresh look at careers advice

As GCSE results are published there will be many 16 year olds – and their parents – wondering whether they have made the right decision about what to do next

Given the turbulence in the jobs market there are very few certainties any more. So careers advice has never been more important. And yet I do not think it is controversial to say that the current system is not working well enough. That is why the new Government has committed itself to a fresh look at how careers advice should operate.

From the UK Skills perspective the individuals who rise to the top in our competitions will normally have found a career which fulfils their talents, needs and interests. But they will also have benefited, in many cases, from great support at home and the backing of the friends, families and communities.

That is why, when thought is given to the reform of the careers advice system, more emphasis must be given to taking a rounded view of the individual in conjunction with their family and their locality. A single ‘one-off’ careers interview is unlikely to address adequately the complexities of how an individual makes a career judgement. Instead guidance should be part of a formative process which involves both what happens at school and at home and, indeed, elsewhere.

But good careers decision-making also requires insights into the world of work. So the more that schools can open up to working life the better. The curriculum itself ought to take account of progression into life beyond school. What makes many school subjects come alive – especially, perhaps, in areas like science which may be in danger of being treated in an abstract way in the classroom – is when the practical applications are seen and explored.

So to make well-informed decisions pupils need to get a taste for what lies ahead whilst at school. And that means that the teachers (and others) who work with them must also be open to the wider world and realise that school is a preparation for life in the round – and not just for GCSEs or A levels.

Careers advice for 16 years can never be perfect – there are still too many unknowns – but it can be offered in a more sensitive and wider context. That’s what I hope will influence thinking in the period ahead.

Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills, which champions learning through competitions and awards


Read other FE News articles by Simon Bartley:

FE needs a new Apprenticeship framework 

Growing world class talent at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

UK Skills honours talented young competitors

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