From education to employment

The Importance of Career Guidance

Jakki Lovewell exclusive

Influencers and early career ambassadors need to embed technology alongside old-school tactics, to showcase opportunities and embrace the family support network in the decision-making process.

At this time of year, reflecting on National Apprenticeship Week and looking ahead to National Careers Week, I’m reminded of the privilege I have in supporting career seekers on their journey toward their dream roles and embracing apprenticeships.

My Career Guidance Background

With over 20 years of experience in adult training, I’ve assisted businesses nationwide with their Learning and Development strategies, recognising that people are the cornerstone of any organisation’s success. Effective recruitment and training plans are vital for business operations and future growth.

Understanding Early Career Seekers

Early career seekers have something to say; they can be loud, very opinionated, full of ideas, embrace technology, and, for the most part, crave some sense of acceptance and validation for being their authentic selves, which for many is quite difficult to do when they have been placed in a box; they spend the best part of their amazing teen years trying to sit in silence for 6 hours a day listening to their teacher, ready to remember the information being shared for one day in the future, so they can pass their exam.

Exam Results vs. Transferable Skills

Is the exam result what we are looking for in a job application? What sets our early career seekers apart from the crowd? Well, from my experience and exposure to thousands of application forms, their first CV or job application is the first time they are allowed to ‘be themselves’ and tell ‘their’ story and how they want to be perceived moving forward into their adult world.

When we receive an application that refers to meeting someone aspirational, or a field visit to a local company or that they took part in an activity, or even watched a YouTube video that they learned from and it brought excitement – we take interest and they can talk about it. I’m not sure if you’ve interviewed someone and discussed their last English lesson, it’s not something I would recommend as an interview conversation starter!

The current landscape presents new challenges; an all-time low in teen confidence, mental health and resilience issues, and a world with huge technological advances with constant media discussions about how technology is taking people’s jobs or even creating new ones. However, there is no further information about what this new world looks like (aside from your area STEM master saying, “You will be ok”).

So what is a STEM career/job role? Don’t we all have transferable skills that will enable us to thrive in a more technologically advanced work environment (with the right training), not just the elite few? Otherwise, we are all doomed. So my plea is let’s make it clear what STEM stands for; rather than making everyone think it’s just for budding astronauts, STEM businesses need lots of disciplines across all levels of the hierarchy, and many non-traditional roles need to embed more technology; it’s a worldwide operational development, not always a specific sector.

The Importance of Clear Career Information

As a parent of a teenager on the cusp of entering the workforce, I can’t emphasise enough how crucial clear information is in guiding their early career decisions. Despite our best intentions, parents and guardians like me ultimately hold the reins regarding our child’s future path, especially considering the potential impact on our household finances. Drawing from my own experiences as a mother (and temporarily putting aside my extensive professional background), I’ve come to realise the importance of exposing our teens to a wide array of opportunities and perspectives beyond our own.

Influencers, businesses, and ambassadors, preferably ones who resonate more with our teenagers than we might, play a pivotal role in shaping their understanding of the world of work. Furthermore, many of us find ourselves in the familiar scenario of asking our teens about their day at school, only to receive vague responses

like “okay” or “nothing much.” This lack of communication about their school experiences leaves us, as parents, uninformed about potential career-related events, visits from local businesses, or other opportunities that could benefit our children’s futures.

Improving School-Parent Communication

With my career advisors head on, I ask for colleges and schools to please embrace engaging with parents and guardians more. By doing so, we can ensure that our teenagers receive the exposure and support they need to make informed decisions about their early careers. After all, navigating the world of work is truly a family matter, and it’s up to us to provide the guidance and resources our teens require to succeed. By utilising technology and prioritising recording sessions and events on your websites, we can review these sessions at a later date for reflection and discussion.

Navigating Career Resources

That leads me to my next frustration in the careers guidance world. Even with my insider knowledge, I can attest that navigating the plethora of information regarding roles, courses, and local businesses to support career event planning can feel like traversing a minefield! It’s frustrating to encounter multiple web pages that fail to link together or provide clear signposts, leaving youngsters bewildered by technical jargon that holds no meaning for them. And don’t even get me started on recruitment chatbots – they’re my pet peeve! It’s baffling when you pose a specific yet straightforward question, like “Can you wear prescription glasses,” only to receive nonsensical responses unrelated to your inquiry. It’s clear that somewhere along the line, things have gone awry.

Back to Basics

With my experience as an Apprentice Ambassador and National Careers Week Ambassador spanning 20 years, I’m putting on my advocate hat to champion a return to grassroots efforts. Let’s embrace a back-to-basics approach and reignite the human connection.

Exposure Through Local Business Engagement

Let’s encourage local businesses to open their doors for orientation events throughout the year (while saving footage to share during National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship Week), so we can create the exposure needed to spark career excitement that resonates in job applications. I’ve seen time and time again, that employers who engage with schools/colleges/universities/local events and share information about who they are and what they do and explain how they operate get far more applications to recruitment posts than those that don’t (exposure).

Furthermore, it’s crucial to remind all local business leaders that the ideal candidate might not know how to reach out to them. It’s up to them as businesses to actively seek talent and provide early career opportunities within their organisations. Taking just one hour a month to engage with local school groups and sharing insights into your role and industry can be invaluable for attracting future talent. Let’s prioritise these efforts to cultivate a pipeline of skilled individuals eager to contribute to our workforce.

We are not robots (yet)

By Jakki Lovewell, Business Manager, Apprentice Employment Agency (a division of Nicholas Associates Group)

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