Laura Bell, Director, Careers - Education Development Trust

Ending today #NationalCareersWeek ran from 2 to 6 March 2020. To mark it, Laura Bell @EdDevTrust considers the importance of guidance and information for parents supporting their children through #careers decisions in an ever-changing employment landscape:

A world of change

In the past decade alone, we have seen major changes to the labour market in the UK. Jobs that did not exist ten years ago now hire in their thousands. Many young people can expect their career paths to be more complex and varied than those of their parents, moving between industries and professions throughout their working life. Technology is also rapidly changing the face of work. In this new world, where employment opportunities are ever-changing, high-quality information and guidance is crucial. To shape their futures, young people need to know what options are available to them, how to pursue these opportunities, and how to develop the skills they will need to succeed.

Such changes to the career landscape also mean that many parents also need better guidance and information as they seek to support their children through these decisions. Parents are often the most influential actors in a young person’s choice of career path, but research suggests that half of parents worry that their lack of understanding of the fast-changing careers landscape could hinder their child’s future.

Guidance for parents

In this context, it is fundamentally important to support both parents and young people as they explore their career options. Parents’ long-held beliefs, misconceptions, and lack of high-quality information have the potential to influence adolescents’ decisions, potentially limiting the range of options they feel are available to them. This makes the need for up-to-date information and impartial guidance all the more important.

Apprenticeships are a key example of a career path beset by misconceptions. Research suggests that many parents have outdated views of apprenticeship roles, the industries in which they exist, and the way that they are perceived in relation to other qualifications. For example, according to a survey published by the Department for Education, 45% of parents did not feel that apprenticeships were valued as highly as university degrees, and 35% associated apprenticeships predominantly with manual work, although this is no longer the case. Further to this, 45% were not aware that apprenticeships can go to degree level. The UK government has been seeking to change public perceptions of apprenticeships and to position them as world-class opportunities, but more remains to be done to ensure that parents have sufficient information to support their children’s choices.

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To this end, as part of our careers remit, Education Development Trust currently delivers a programme across London which provides such guidance specifically for apprenticeships. The Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge (ASK) programme is designed to help educators, employers and students navigate the fast-changing world of apprenticeships, but crucially, it has also reached out to parents. Since August 2019, ASK has provided guidance and support to almost 3500 parents across London. The programme, which engages with parents at schools’ options events, careers fairs and parents’ evenings, provides parents up-to-date information and advice to support their child to find their dream job, including information relating to the full range of apprenticeship opportunities and how to navigate the recruitment process.

Moreover, many educators also seek to support the young people they work with, but they can also lack sufficient specialist knowledge to effectively advise on careers and relevant skills development – especially in new roles or industries. To meet this need in a local context, Education Development Trust’s London Connected Learning Centre (CLC) has developed Tech Pathways London. This programme, funded as part of the Mayor of London’s Digital Talent programme, is designed to help educators support young people in developing digital skills, to connect them with industry partners across the city, and to empower young people with better knowledge of how they might enter digital careers. It is a highly accessible programme, offering free courses to teachers, social workers, arts educators, alternative service providers, and charity groups working with young people aged between 11 and 24. It has already reached over 600 educators and was recently named in the prestigious EdTech 50 list.

These initiatives are significant achievements, but they should only be the beginning: parents and educators across the country need to be better equipped to help them more effectively support and advise young people as they begin their professional lives. This will require investment in programmes and initiatives which can make relevant support and guidance more widely available.

Emerging trends in the world of work

A great deal of the information that parents and educators need can be gleaned from up-to-date, high-quality labour market information (LMI), such as that generated and managed by Education Development Trust. We use this LMI in our work delivering the National Careers Service as a prime contractor in the north east, Cumbria, Yorkshire and the Humber, and as a key subcontractor in the south east and south west of England. Our qualified professionals mediate and interpret this information to help us deliver world-class careers advice and guidance to 100,000 adults every year.

In a changing employment landscape, one particularly helpful aspect of LMI is how it can be used to help identify trends and shifts in the labour market. For example, it is clear that data, technology, and the knowledge economy are significantly impacting employment options: LinkedIn analysis showed the top three emerging job titles in 2020 to be Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Data Protection Officer, and Robotics Engineer. Analysis also suggests an increase in services occupations, with a slight decline in secretarial and administrative roles and in some skilled trades and manufacturing jobs.

It is particularly interesting that such trends and shifts are not confined to these new jobs or new industries: new pathways for careers opportunities and professional development are also emerging.

Adult apprenticeships, for example, offer a broad range of opportunities. Contrary to widely held misconceptions, many apprenticeships are not just for school leavers or those under the age of 25, but are actually open to all adults. Used well, such routes can help to relieve skills shortages and provide invaluable opportunities for career development, including specialised professional training, highly technical work, and upskilling and reskilling for career changes. They also increasingly provide new opportunities to enter professions which have traditionally required a university degree, such as law, accounting, publishing and software development.

Getting high quality information to those who need it

Despite these changes, myths and misconceptions persist. This highlights the need for professional careers guidance services like the National Careers Service, which debunks myths around these career options ­– and the wider career landscape – and provides effective support and guidance for jobseekers. Our qualified careers advisers deliver highly contextualized advice, based on the latest LMI and close networks with local employers. Gemma Bramley, Business Improvement Manager, commented: ‘As an impartial careers service, we aim to education and inform people about all options available to them, including apprenticeships at all levels. We seek to really open up new opportunities for viable routes to sustainable employment.’

Careers is a fundamental part of the work of Education Development Trust. In 2018-19, we provided educational support to and helped find employment for over 93,000 job seekers. Indeed, our wide remit across the careers and educational landscape – from early years education right through to post-18 careers guidance – puts us in a unique position to help to join the dots and deliver the latest and most accurate information to young people, their parents, and their teachers.

As we enter a new, post-Brexit economy, the UK government is increasingly likely to focus on creating and maintaining a skilled workforce. In the face of such changes, and continued shifts in the employment landscape, it is vitally important that young people – and those who support them – are provided with world-class guidance and support. However, this can only happen with targeted support for effective programmes to bridge gaps in their knowledge and help them to successfully transition into the modern world of work.

Laura Bell, Director, Careers- Education Development Trust

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