Nicola Hall, Director of Education, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Right now, as we establish students and pupils back in colleges and schools, we have a unique opportunity. One that is presenting itself as I have never known in my education leadership career, that is - everyone is talking about careers.

Not all for the same reasons of course, but leaders of education, teachers, parents, graduates, researchers, policy makers and of course employers are all taking a high-level interest in the futures of young people.

That energy and interest is captured in the ideas, initiatives and information we have brought together from across the sector in a package of new resources to help inspire and support the drive for continuing improvement in the careers guidance we offer our next generation, both through the current period of continuing uncertainty and into the future.

In our recent Teacher Tapp poll, 74% of teachers surveyed recognised that they thought employability skills are the best way to improve young people’s career prospects.

Similarly, in an SLT survey carried out by The Gatsby Foundation in June, 72% of school and college leaders felt that careers guidance has become more important during the pandemic.

Not everyone has the same narrative or reason for talking about careers, but focus is high, the challenges are real, and opportunities are there.

At the start of lockdown there are few who would dispute that we spent the first couple of weeks in shock, speculating about school returns, cancelling activities and thinking hard about how to shape our future offer, whilst of course prioritising and safeguarding the well-being of young people and our teams.

I think that applies to us all, but quickly we started to see our way through, all the time keeping young people, and in our case Careers Leaders too at the forefront of our minds as a guiding principle to shape what was to come over the next few months.

Seize the Moment….

This unique opportunity now gives us all the chance to shape, prioritise and influence the careers guidance that young people are receiving in their schools, special schools and colleges.

As an education profession it is unlikely that we will ever dispute the need to prepare young people for their futures. Education is based on opportunities.

But, now is the time to give them opportunities to make informed choices about all the options and pathways available to them at every point of their transition. We have it within our gift as school leaders to deliver programmes, activities, experiences and encounters which make all the difference to each individual.

Never has there been a more opportune moment to scrutinise your careers provision and place it front and centre of your recovery planning, ensure it is aligned and tuned into school improvement priorities and that Compass+ is being used as a powerful gap analysis tool to ensure no young people slip through the net.

We know that employers are keen to continue to support schools and colleges in their quest to inspire young people and inform their choices. Now we all need to exploit all avenues and take these chances to shape, prioritise, influence and reinvent the careers guidance narrative for your cohorts.

At every level of our education system we have a collective responsibility to keep moving the dial, to stand by the mission of preparing young people for their futures, be this through:

  • Raising aspirations, stimulating curiosity and fascinating children about the world of work at primary school,
  • Ensuring equitable pathway awareness, experiences and creating a whole school culture of careers guidance in secondary school, or
  • Honing career management skills and offering high-quality work experience insights to college students.

Whilst tuned into an international webinar recently I was struck by a comment from Andreas Schleicher, (Director OECD, Directorate for Education and Skills) when he was asked for a top tip for a successful career by a young apprentice,

 “Love what you do, do what you love” was his response, but immediately followed up with this question to educators:

“But how do they get to know what they love?”

Colleagues, it is time for everyone to walk the talk where careers guidance is concerned!

Nicola Hall, Director of Education, The Careers & Enterprise Company

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