From education to employment

Raising the careers advice bar in the Midlands

Two mums and their unique new venture is helping schools and colleges raise the bar when it comes to careers advice. In fact, demand for their independent services in their first year has been phenomenal and outstripped all predictions. But why?

It’s been a phenomenal year for careers advisors Kat Garland and Jess Townsend.

With more than 25 years’ combined experience in their field, the two mums took a brave leap to become self-employed entrepreneurs and launch Luminate Careers and Coaching in March 2019.

Already well known and respected for their extensive work in Derbyshire, including for Derby City Council and Connexions, with young people, the pair have been so busy with their unique venture that it’s outstripped all their hopes and predictions in just 12 months.

Since the start of this academic year they’ve worked with an impressive 1,600 students and won high praise along the way.

Huge expansion now on the cards

Demand has been so high for the female founders, who boast Level 6 diplomas in Careers Guidance and Development – that they’re now on the “exciting” verge of increasing their workforce by 200%.

Taking on four additional advisors, who all hail from Derby, isn’t the only expansion already in the pipeline for 42-year-old Kat, of Derby, and 40-year-old Jess, of Tutbury.

Having worked with several schools and colleges across Derbyshire this academic year, they’re now expanding into the neighbouring county of Staffordshire, with support from Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce’s Let’s Do Mentoring business support programme.

But, why has their new business been so successful and so quickly?

Helping fulfil Government’s new careers strategy

While all UK secondary schools and colleges have a statutory obligation to provide careers advice to students, it was back in September 2018 that the Government introduced a new careers strategy in a bid to create a more consistent, and better provision across the board.

Under the move schools and colleges have eight recommended levels they need to reach, known as Gatsby benchmarks, including appointing a careers leader to put all other benchmarks into place.

It’s by supporting these careers leaders, that the duo, with a wealth of knowledge, experience and connections under their professional belts, have created a winning independent service.

Jess, who also holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology, said: “We’re the only company doing exactly what we do in Derby. We are also unique in that we’re completely impartial – we’re not members of staff at the schools and colleges we go into or employed by individual companies.

“The service we offer helps schools to meet the Gatsby benchmark Number 8 to provide personal guidance. This requirement states that every student should have at least one interview covering this by the age of 16, and the opportunity for a further interview by the age of 18. 

“Research evidence confirms that personal guidance has an observable impact on a student’s career and progression, but this is a big job for schools to achieve this requirement.

“As qualified Level 6 careers advisers, we can support them to meet this requirement by creating a package of support that is tailored to their individual needs.

“The students we’ve worked with have really valued time and space with a professional – who isn’t a teacher or parent – and the feedback from schools and colleges has also been extremely positive.”

Luminate Careers and Coaching helps individual careers leaders to meet the benchmarks by creating bespoke, independent programmes, including one-to-ones, group sessions and large workshops as well as support at parental and careers evenings, organising placements and pupil progress reports

Unique approach proving a resounding success

It’s this unique, bespoke approach that’s proving to be a winning formula for the venture, which has also supported high-profile events like Derby Skills Festival.

Careers leader Fiona Came, at Littleover Community School, one of Luminate’s clients, said: “My role is made so much easier as I know I can rely on the flexible and inspirational services Luminate offers.

“Our students have responded well to the one-to-one guidance sessions, and working with advisers from Luminate has, and continues to be, reassuringly productive.”

And Andrew Kilgour, at Derby Moor Academy, said: “Our initial relationship with Luminate has already added significantly to our capacity to deliver the careers programme.

“We’ve worked closely with Kat and Jess to design a programme bespoke to what we require here.”

Luminate has already worked with secondary schools in Derby city, Long Eaton, Heanor, Eckington, Ilkeston and now has its sights set on helping young people in Burton high schools, as well as other South Staffordshire schools.

It also hopes to expand into Derbyshire and Staffordshire primary schools in the near future.

National Career Mark adviser Jess added: “By using creative coaching techniques in our sessions we give young people a chance to be listened to and then together create a plan to achieve their goals. 

“Giving young people a chance to explore their personal qualities, strengths and skills, reflect on past experiences, support decision making and help to make sense of labour market information, impacts on social mobility and develops valuable career management skills they can continue to build on throughout their lives.

“Ultimately, we want to help young people realise the opportunities open to them and achieve their potential, whatever their starting point.”

She went on to say that: “Launching Luminate Careers has definitely proved to be the right decision at the right time – after years of myself and Kat talking about doing it.

“We’re over the moon with the response we’ve had and that our business has been such a success that we’re already expanding our service in more ways than one.

“As part of our expansion plan, we’re also now beginning to work with local employers to get them involved in teaching young people about the world of work, industries, and opportunities, which is helping pupils to become enthusiastic about their future employment choices.

“It’s also important to realise that there are jobs our young people will do in the future that simply don’t exist now and that’s really exciting to work towards.”

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