From education to employment

We need to talk about careers advice in the UK

Angela Middleton, Chairman and Founder of MiddletonMurray

There is a severe lack of informative and aspirational careers advice in the UK. As a nation we are underperforming, under-motivated and are nowhere near as productive as we should be, especially when compared with other European countries.

The UK needs to look to the way careers advice is taught in other countries to see how we can expand and improve the current state of our careers services. In Ireland, a feature of secondary schools is the optional Transition Year which can be taken by 16-17 year-old students. During this year out, the traditional curriculum is replaced with a focus on vocational skills including work experience and visits to businesses. In the Netherlands, there’s a nationwide movement called Technasium, where real-life projects are embedded within the school curriculum.

Understandably, a real focus of schools is to produce outstanding exam results as this is how their success is measured. Across the country, there is a concentration on developing hard skills, such as literacy and numeracy, but this means teachers do not have the capacity or resource to support other areas of development like careers advice. Even though there is an attempt to push the agenda of careers advice in schools, it’s simply not working right now. This is because when you target and incentivise schools to focus on skills and academic results, they are not going to focus on other areas. Who can blame them?

It’s important to think about the bigger picture and how careers advice fits into the current curriculum. Careers are just one part of overall life strategy and something must be done to think about how these types of lessons can sit alongside and complement the syllabus. It’s important that people outside the school system consider what else can be done to ensure that comprehensive careers advice is available for everyone.

There are several measures that should be introduced to support schools to develop employable young people. There needs to be better relations between schools and businesses so they can work together to develop new solutions. Businesses say that they want to engage with schools and vice versa, but this isn’t working at the moment because the platform to faciliate these conversations doesn’t exist.

There is no doubt in my mind that digital platforms for careers advice and other life-planning information is the way forward. It allows young people to access information in an easy, relatable way in a format they are used to and can easily absorb.

Social channels, websites and mediums such as podcasts are so important for businesses to engage with students and provide life-planning advice. At MiddletonMurray, we understand that digital is the future and have created a podcast series that provides free and detailed careers advice that provides listeners with real-life examples.

The podcast features an A-Z of careers, in a wide range of industries including; finance, fashion, media, medicine and politics. A resource like this allows students to gain first-hand insights and experiences from experts in a wide range of industries.

One particularly popular episode features James Brokenshire, the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, and includes his advice on how to get into the world of politics. James said that what he enjoys is, ‘the stimulus, the challenge, the fact that I’m doing something that I enjoy, that I feel like I’m really making a difference in, really drives me on.’

We must support the next generation of workers in the development of their skills, motivation, productivity and ability to enter the world of work. The podcast series has already reached thousands of young people and is the type of initiative that will support schools and the careers advice currently available.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is more to be done to ensure this type of life-planning information becomes the new normal. If we don’t act now, the UK will continue to fall behind in its productivity and employment opportunities for young people and the skills shortage will continue to grow.

Angela Middleton, Chairman and Founder of MiddletonMurray

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