Confidence in the business and professional services sectors is at a fifteen-year high, and young people need access to in-depth career guidance, across all industry sectors, to avoid being left behind.
A report recently published by Ofsted showed that guidance for schools on careers advice was not explicit, the National Careers Service was not promoted well enough and there was a lack of employer engagement in schools.
We owe it to young people to signpost them to all possible available career choices. In doing so, we must also ensure that Further Education professionals are provided with all the appropriate tools they need to enable the widest possible dissemination of career planning guidance.
Educators have a unique opportunity to encourage and support young people in building their skills for jobs, and realise their potential for creating successful, fulfilling careers. This can include access to work experience, school leaver programmes, internships and graduate schemes, and apprenticeships.
In fact, an immediate goal must be the dispelling of myths about apprenticeships, sometimes unknowingly considered to be only for the 'trades', such as plumbing, or engineering. We must change mind-sets and behaviours that may affect young people's perception of apprenticeships as a possible career path.
Apprenticeships now operate at many levels, and are relevant to a range of jobs roles, including opportunities in the increasingly diverse, challenging and professional financial and legal services industry. As work-based training programmes, which provide an opportunity to gain qualifications at the same time as earning a salary, apprenticeships are a practical way to young people to learn and earn.
The Financial and Legal Skills Partnership (FLSP) proactively supports the development of a skilled workforce in the UK's financial, finance, legal and accountancy sectors.
We realise that, faced with rapidly increasing amounts of information and data, Further Education professionals cannot be expected to have all the answers. Indeed, the Ofsted report showed that very few of the schools visited knew how to provide a service effectively or had the skills and expertise needed to provide a comprehensive service. This is where the FLSP's 'Directions' programme comes in.
Responding to Further Education professionals' request for help to enhance career opportunities, 'Directions' is a one-stop shop for up-to-date, expert information on careers in the sector. It is becoming the 'go-to' place to find out which employers are offering work experience, sponsored degrees, school leaver programmes, apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes.
Our support for young people must also include online learning opportunities, and the opportunity – sometimes virtual – to improve employability skills by ensuring completion of an industry placement. We know that young people are comfortable with a virtual approach, communicating primarily through social media and email.
Yet, in a recent Barnados' 'Helping the inbetweeners' report, the charity revealed that young people report they can't use the government's remote online schemes – or don't even know they exist.
Through offering virtual work experience, the FLSP's innovative, industry-led 'GetInGetOn' programme enables thousands of young people to develop their skills and knowledge.
Virtual work experience gives young people an opportunity to participate in a one- month scheme, completed entirely online. 'GetInGetOn' has already achieved a milestone in engaging 100 e-career mentors, all from within the industry, and 150 young people are benefiting from the programme.
Young people must be freed from old-fashioned stereotypes, and with professional support, in line with their modern way of accessing information, learn about the myriad new opportunities awaiting them. Further education is a critical component in communicating those new opportunities, across all sectors, and effectively shaping the country's renewed growth.
Every new tool is developed as a direct result of acknowledged professional need. We encourage you, as Further Education professionals, to tell us the tools you need to access information about opportunities for young people and provide them with their best possible options.
Investment in young people, and the continued development and promotion of skills training and apprenticeships initiatives, will allow us to ensure that young, educated and enthusiastic talent progresses and thrives in the renewed economy of the 2010s.
Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial and Legal Skills Partnership, an employer-led organisation that represents large firm partners on the current skills issues affecting the industry