Chris Webb – CEIAG Coordinator/Careers Adviser – The Ruth Gorse Academy, Leeds

Those of us working in the career development sector were buoyed recently by the speech given by the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Anne Milton, at the Careers Education and Guidance Summit in London, which reiterated the importance of careers advice in the government’s new technical education strategy and focused on four key pillars:

  1. The need for high-quality careers programmes
  2. Encounters with providers and employers
  3. Personalised careers advice
  4. The use of accurate, up-to-date labour market information.

The second of these pillars, encounters with employers, has been a particularly hot topic of late, with a recent report from Education and Employers and LifeSkills created with Barclays outlining that 93% of secondary teachers polled in a YouGov survey believe that participation in employer engagement, careers advice and work experience has a direct impact on academic achievement, particularly for borderline achievers.

However, with the increased focus on the academic curriculum since the introduction of the EBacc and Progress 8 measures and the subsequent difficulty of finding time for students to participate in activities off-timetable, how can we ensure students see the relevance of the subjects they are studying in school and have an opportunity to learn more about the world of work in the process?

One way schools are already doing this is by emphasising the importance of careers within the curriculum. This can be seen in various guises, whether it is individual departments creating careers boards with their students, arranging subject-specific school trips with an added careers focus (such as our Design Technology department’s recent visit to a local graphic design studio in Leeds) or subject focus evenings for students and parents, where information is shared on post-16 options linked to a curriculum area.

While these are all effective ways of embedding careers into the curriculum, time and budgetary restrictions can often make running school trips difficult and only hit a small proportion of the student body.

To counter this, a major focus of our careers provision has been engaging with local providers and employers to identify support for teachers to embed careers within their subject lessons but without the added workload of trip administration and time off timetable for students.

In Leeds, we are lucky enough to have some fantastic colleges and universities who provide student volunteers to support with curriculum time, including Leeds City College, whose Art students are preparing a session to run with our BTEC Art cohort in January and Leeds Arts University, whose student ambassadors run careers talks and presentations regarding design portfolios to help show students in school the context behind what they are currently learning.

In addition, with STEM currently being a key focus area for the government, there is a huge degree of support available through organisations such as WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) and the STEM Ambassadors programme, which has over 37,000 volunteers from industry nationwide who can help to support with careers-related lessons, extra-curricular clubs, drop-down days and assemblies.

Even in subjects such as History and Geography, which students traditionally struggle to link to the world of work, there is help at hand, as programmes like the University of Leeds’ ‘Students into Schools’ initiative connects academics and student volunteers with subject teachers to help deliver parts of the curriculum in that subject and show students that an interest in this area doesn’t have to end at school.

Naturally, this partnership work can be very ad-hoc in nature, so if ‘Careers in the Curriculum’ is to become commonplace, it is evident that it will need to be woven in to the timetable that schools deliver. We are currently reviewing curriculum maps within our school to locate the most suitable points to utilise external support, which over time will hopefully see the embedding of careers within subject lessons as just another part of lesson planning and the KS3/KS4 curriculum.

This will obviously require the support of careers leaders and the school leadership to ensure that these changes do not increase teacher workload but as we have seen above, by working together effectively we can help to bring the world of work into schools and give students the opportunity to better understand where their subjects could take them in later life.

Chris Webb – CEIAG Coordinator/Careers Adviser – The Ruth Gorse Academy, Leeds

A registered career development professional and member of the Career Development Institute, Chris has previously worked for education institutions in secondary education, FE and HE as a Functional Skills Tutor, Study Programme Coordinator and Careers Adviser.

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