From education to employment

Let’s support young people in their quest for success

Andrew Stevens, CEO, CNet Training

It’s easy to make assumptions about why young people do what they do or behave as they do and it’s rare to hear first-hand views from teenagers.

A new piece of research from the Career Colleges Trust, published today (26 Feb), is therefore interesting – highlighting the views of 1000 13-16 year olds in relation to their education.

The overarching theme to come out of this research is the fact that these young people are crying out for more support when it comes to deciding upon and achieving their career ambitions.

Many are concerned that the next few years of their education will be a waste of time.

This is disappointing news – but what’s actually going on?

Successful and fulfilling careers are surely the real aim of education, but you wouldn’t know this if you visited the majority of schools. Teachers are forced to focus on exam results and the few careers advisors around are rarely experts in the modern working world.

Parents too should take note as they are a major influence on their children’s choice of career – but the economy has changed dramatically over the past 50 years and the jobs that exist now are unlikely to have existed when parents were choosing jobs.

Our teens therefore cannot know what they don’t know – and the fact is that they are not being educated or inspired about the many exciting jobs opening up in across the digital, healthcare and many other expanding UK industries.

For example how many 13 year olds will know about careers in cloud technology, cyber security or data analytics – or how to get there? How many would know about smart building technology for sustainability and project management?

As an employer, I am well aware of the difficulty to fill specific skills gaps. Young people can arrive with handfuls of qualifications but with very little idea about what to expect from employment.

Yet we really can’t lay the blame on them. How can we expect school/college/university leavers to automatically be prepared for work when they have only ever been taught to pass exams – and not only that – but they haven’t been advised on the career options available to them in order for them to end up in the place/industry that is right for them!

Today’s research highlights that over two thirds of 13-16 year olds feel that their education is focused on league tables and academic grades – with only 13% saying that the main focus of their education is on their future career.

This is hugely significant and absolutely backs up many employers’ experiences of young people who, through no fault of their own, lack direction and understanding of the real world.

Schools and colleges are under great pressure both financially and in terms of performance. I am sure many would love to put a greater emphasis on careers, but don’t have the resources and simply have to prioritise exam results and league tables.

Of course children need to get the right grades in order to move on to the next stage of education – but it’s a real issue that this is being done at the expense of everything else.

My company and I work hard to engage with schools, colleges and other organisations including the Career Colleges Trust, which focuses on employer-led education. I am well aware of the importance of nurturing future talent.

Our industry is full of opportunities which didn’t even exist 10-15 years ago and are rarely understood or known about by parents, teachers or careers advisors. We are working hard to change this, as are many other employers across a range of exciting sectors.

Today’s research clearly highlights that 13-16 year olds are intuitive and informed about the support they need in order to achieve their ambitions.

They want a clearer focus to be put on the end result of their education – which we would all agree is their career. It’s time we started listening to our young people and better supported them in their quest for success.

Andrew Stevens, CEO, CNet Training

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