From education to employment

Involving Parents and Guardians in Careers Support for 11-18 Year-Olds

With a new system of technical education being rolled out in England, young people have a choice of high-quality routes and qualifications to pursue post-16, including apprenticeships, T levels and A levels. It is more important than ever that they can make informed choices about which route to follow, based not on misconceptions but on accurate information about the careers available from these qualifications.

We know that young people most frequently turn to their parents as a source of career guidance. Providing parents with accurate and independent information about the full range of education and career options available to their children is therefore critical to enabling all young people to make informed decisions about their future.

What the Research Tells Us

Research commissioned by Gatsby earlier this year reported that nearly 3 in 4 (71%) parents feel overwhelmed by the number of career and education choices available to their children. Nearly two thirds (67%) said that their child had expressed an interest in exploring a future career that they know nothing about, and nearly as many (62%) admitting to relying predominantly on their own experiences when advising their children on what their potential future options could be.

The survey of 2,000 parents of secondary school pupils in England was carried out for Talking Futures – Gatsby’s national campaign which helps parents, carers, and guardians of 11–18 year olds have constructive and informed conversations with their child about education choices and careers. The survey explores parents’ views on the current job market, and how and to what extent they are able to support their child to find the right pathway for them.

Compounding this sense of confusion, parents are also feeling pressure to have vast knowledge of the education and career landscape in order to provide useful advice. The majority (83%) of parents admit to feeling worried that they don’t take into account all the options that exist, including those they know nothing about, when having these conversations with their children.

Where Parents Can Access Support

The Talking Futures campaign is designed to improve parents’ confidence and give them the information they need to have more informed conversations with their children about education and careers.

This May, Talking Futures launched a new interactive online tool, ‘Conversation Cards’, which is designed to break this information down into manageable chunks and give parents the information and signposting they need to guide their child through the decision making process and discover the careers that might interest them.

Schools and colleges are also key sources of information for parents. Following a successful pilot project in 2019, through which Gatsby tested different approaches to parental engagement through the school and college system, Gatsby is collaborating with the Careers & Enterprise Company to ensure national rollout of Talking Futures to support educators to connect parents into career programmes at school and college. The Careers & Enterprise Company have developed a toolkit to support Careers Leaders to amplify the role of parents in careers decision-making and increase their participation.

The toolkit is based on research exploring how institutions can best support parents to help young people make informed careers and education decisions. The Careers & Enterprise Company have a range of resources for schools and colleges to use including: (i) parent- facing activities for events such as parents’ evenings and tailored family learning sessions;

(ii) student-facing activities to reinforce parents’ role in decision-making; (iii) support for Careers Leaders to identify activities that will complement existing provision; (iv) practical tips and guidance on how to deliver each type of activity, and (v) a range of preparation activities to help you and parents get the most out of each session.

Recommendation 1

Education leaders should ensure that within their whole school/college parental engagement strategy there is a strand for careers education

Recommendation 2

Education leaders should ensure that their careers leaders, careers advisers and teaching staff are aware of the Talking Futures educator resources and are actively using these to engage parents in the school or college careers programme.

Recommendation 3

Providers of technical education routes should ensure that they provide information which is accessible and available to parents at key decision points to enable them to understand the changing landscape of technical education.

By Lesley Thain, Head of Career Programmes, Gatsby Foundation

Read Campaign for Learning‘s press release here.

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