Just over a week ago the UK’s biggest skills and careers event, The Skills Show, took place at Birmingham’s NEC and I am proud that City & Guilds is Premier Sponsor both this year and for the following two. The event gives young people the opportunity to experience different skills-based careers alongside high quality careers advice, access apprenticeships and find out about job opportunities from well-known employers.
Being at the event, I have had the opportunity to experience first-hand the many fantastic things going on, which I hope will inspire a generation about a variety of different career paths available to them. In the “Have a Go” sections, visitors were getting stuck in and trying out different skills in careers as wide ranging as Animal Care and Autobody Repair, to Stonemasonry and TV presenting!
One of the most impressive things about the Show has been the amount of real careers information advice and guidance available to visitors. They were able to chat to people from different walks of life and try a variety of different skills to help them choose the most satisfying career path for them. We were also keen to ensure that anyone not able to attend the Show in Birmingham, would get the same level of support, so we partnered with Notgoingtouni and Mumsnet, to give the audiences of these websites the information they need from the comfort of their living rooms by hosting question and answer sessions with industry experts.
To coincide with The Skills Show, City & Guilds also re-launched its Career Happiness Index, a comprehensive survey offering insights into what people in the UK consider to be the most important factors contributing to their happiness at work. The study shows that gardeners and florists are the happiest workers in the UK, followed by hairdressers and plumbers, whilst bankers, IT professionals and HR workers ranked lowest.
It’s particularly interesting that our findings showed people who have taken the vocational route are happiest and feel the most pride in their work; so there's certainly something to be said from learning specific skills and working your way up the career ladder.
The importance of skills and the vital role they play in getting people into work have never been higher on the national agenda. However, despite all the evidence – such as our own research highlighted here – and public debate, young people are still suffering from a lack of knowledge about what different jobs require, and how to go about accessing the right training to build a sustained and satisfying career. Events like The Skills Show are therefore crucial to raising awareness and knowledge around skills and work, but this must also be supported by the provision of sound careers advice in schools.
The current provision of careers information, advice and guidance falls far short of what is needed. One of its biggest failings is that young people are streamlined too early and often directed down an academic route without being given adequate information about the many vocational options available. As a result, many young people are being denied the opportunity to access what could actually be the most suitable pathway towards their chosen career.
Another piece of research recently conducted by City & Guilds (Ways Into Work: views of children and young people on education and employment) shows that about a third of young people said they have never received any careers guidance and around two thirds said they received some form of careers information from their school teachers – but of this same group, only 14% said they found that advice useful. This doesn’t tell us that teachers are at fault. We know they are trained professionals in their field. Why should they have any better insight into a profession other than their own?
Teachers can’t be relied upon to provide all the careers guidance young people need. I believe more people need to see careers guidance as a profession in its own right. We need skills diagnostics services that are up to scratch and we need improved access to trained career guidance professionals.
We must ensure that young people are not being sold short when it comes to understanding all the possible options available so they can access the kind of skills that can ultimately lead to job satisfaction. We know that workers’ happiness is boosted when they use and hone their skills every day; we know they feel more pride in their work when they learn a trade from the beginning and work their way up. Through events such as The Skills Show, we can raise the profile of skills, provide young people with better access to the best possible progression route, and help our next generation to shape their futures.
Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City and Guilds, the awarding body