What do an electrician, a film maker and the inventor of the first ever touch-trigger probe have in common? Apart from all having forged highly successful careers via a vocational qualification or training, they're all supporting the Edge Foundation's new campaign to expand careers advice for young people.

My first day as Chief Executive of Edge in February, coincided with the launch of the Careers Footsteps initiative neatly paralleling my own career 'next step'. Of course they say the hardest part of any journey is the first step and for any young person thinking about their post-school options it is a daunting one.

Young people and their families often tell us they aren't aware of the options available apart from A-levels and university. A survey of graduates commissioned by Edge last year found that over a quarter (27%) said they would consider an apprenticeship if they were making the same decision again.

A third felt their degree had been a waste of money. Perhaps not surprising when almost half (49%) of them have jobs which don't require a degree. Given the outlay for university tuition fees and the lack of certainty around securing a graduate level job, it makes for a costly misstep.

That is why Edge are working with the Employers and Education Taskforce to introduce professionals who have taken practical, technical or professional learning routes into their careers, to schools who want to offer their students as broad and comprehensive careers advice as possible.

Volunteers spend an hour talking to students about their job, career and the journey they've taken to get there. Nothing beats hearing it from the horse's mouth of course, especially for young people.

Growing up, I remember being inspired by the idea that politicians could make a difference and I was determined to be an MP myself when I was older. Actually that was my only career ambition for many years until I realised there are many ways to effect change both inside and outside Government. Now I work almost across the road from the Houses of Parliament, which is close enough to politics for now.

The importance of finding the right route for you is the main message of Career Footsteps. Lucy Ackland is a great example. Rather than do A-levels, she opted for an apprenticeship with world leading engineering company Renishaw when she was 16. Now aged 28, Lucy has a raft of qualifications under her belt, including a first class honours degree in engineering and the 2014 Women's Engineering Society Prize, a top job as Head of Projects at Renishaw and last year bought her own three-bedroomed house in Bristol.

Lucy says:

'Graduates who join Renishaw often wish they had had more information about the options open to them and realised that you don't have to do A-levels and go to university. I've been working full time since I was 16 so I don't have university debts. Apprenticeships still have a stigma that people think they are for people who aren't academic and I hope this campaign will help to change that.'

Lucy is one of 100 professionals Edge is featuring each day on social media channels. It's already building into an impressive portfolio of people at all stages of their careers and each day we tweet why they love their job.

The diversity of professions and sectors represented in this campaign is tremendous. Film makers, apprentice journalists, young entrepreneurs, Michelin-starred chefs, hairdressers, florists, charity Chief Executives; from the youngest apprentice plasterer to the Chair of one of the UK's leading valve manufacturers to the founder of the MOBO Awards. The thing they all have in common is that they're found their own pathway to success.

These are challenging times for further education. The area reviews will undoubtedly have implications on post-16 education and training provision and inevitably impact across the sector. Never has there been a more apposite time to make the case for the merits of technical, practical and vocational learning. Edge's Career Footsteps campaign celebrates the diversity and the value of further education and I hope you'll support our initiative.

To sign up go to www.edge.co.uk/projects/career-footsteps or support Career Footsteps on twitter with the hashtag #Followmyfootsteps

Alice Barnard is chief executive of the Edge Foundation

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