It’s not rocket science, but it could be…

Here we are – stepping gingerly into 2018 and the Baker clause has kicked in, as of January 2nd. Happy New Year! It’s all good, but formally channeling input from a range of education, training and employment providers takes time to review, set up and manage, alongside all the regular parts of a careers teacher’s day job. The influence of Gatsby and the increasing formalisation of careers services is admirable, and ultimately better for everyone, but with tighter budgets and limited resources, what’s a challenged careers department to do?

Our last NCW article (Parents, who’d have them?) made the case for drawing parents into the equation. They can provide additional resource at very low cost, if not actually zero, although some time is inevitably needed to get them engaged. Parents are obviously not careers experts, but they can contribute significantly by helping their teenagers find direction and build their employability. Some parents would do so automatically, but many wouldn’t specifically know what to do, so putting effort into guiding them can be highly beneficial.

Doing so helps careers teachers add a background resource focussed on leading pupils and students to be more positively engaged and managed day to day, through their careers journey. Let’s focus on the actions that can be taken in order to start reaping some of those benefits. There are three strands to drawing parents in and helping them to be effective.

  • Help parents realise that they can contribute in ways that will make a significant difference to outcomes and prospects for their offspring. Reassure them that that can be done with a light touch and no significant investment of extra time, money or skills on their part.
  • Those ways need to be defined and clarified, so concentrate their efforts on what they’re naturally able to do best. It’s vital that they don’t lurch off-piste into your territory, potentially reducing your effectiveness and knocking you off the path to the very real results-benefits attainable.
  • The actual time, resource and results benefits only flow from getting parents marshalled and moving. Equip them with a simple framework to help them steer, guide and facilitate their teenagers through basic decision making and into building their employability.

To be clear, your objective divides into three parts: setting up parents so that they steer their teenagers into engaging with your professional detailed services more positively; getting parents to help raise the employability of those school-leavers and reducing the number of NEETs you end up with. Towards those, let’s look at the positive actions that you can lead parents into, within the three basic elements of careers service delivery.

So what can parents actually do?

Help pupils / students find direction

Get parents to start simply, asking questions which will help identify the basic job or careers directions to consider. What does their teenager care about? How would they spend their time if left entirely alone? What jobs or careers might match that? By understanding likes, interests, beliefs, values and underlying character, they can positively help their offspring identify broad directions to think along.

Equip parents to get their teenagers fully engaged with at least one of the various web-based resources which throw up suitable career and job choices, relative to their interests and characteristics. These provide at least a basic idea of what’s involved in trying to start and pursue a career in any particular field of interest.

Ask parents to work with their teenager to narrow their interests down to a practical number. The aim is not necessarily to identify a definitive choice, although that would be great, but a small number of jobs or career directions that hold genuine interest.

Prompt obtaining detailed information

What teenagers obviously next require is current information about such things as: career paths; entry routes; typical employers; job opportunities; a feel for the actual work involved and basic information about longer term career development paths. In 99.9% of cases, parents will be poorly positioned to help, so ensure they’re clear that your careers service should be the next port of call for their teenager.

Help build employability

This is where parents can really make a difference toward both your effectiveness and end-of-year departmental results. Your CEIAG efforts will all be for naught if an inspired and motivated student fails to either find a suitable post or training opportunity or fails to actually win a place on the ones they do find. For a careers department, significantly building employability on a tailored individual level is practically impossible, hence the value of the additional resource that individual parents can bring to bear. Direct parents to undertake specific actions on a flexible, as-required, when appropriate basis with the following.

  • Searching for opportunities. Parental styles differ, but the process of uncovering opportunities is always the same. Give parents basic guidance on the steps to take. Whether they lead their offspring to do it themselves, or whether they do it for them, doesn’t necessarily matter, so long as someone does it and it suits the parties involved.
  • Researching individual opportunities. Employers hate generic and colourless applications, but love genuine interest from applicants. Prime parents to understand and take the basic information-gathering steps that will enable their teenager to write and talk sense when they apply for something.
  • Basic quality of CV and application submissions. Give parents guidance to proof read, spot formatting issues, catch unfortunate gaffs, eliminate useless hyperbole and correct obvious grammatical and spelling errors. They may or may not be fully professional in this area, but any effort is better than no effort at all.
  • Interview preparation. For the majority of roles or training opportunities, the expectations of employers are not that great at this entry level. That is exactly why parents can make a huge difference to the interview prospects of their teenager. Prompt them to work through the basics of dress, timeliness, personal approach and showing a positive interest in interview opportunities that arise. Equip parents with a guide to preparing answers to likely interview questions along with a simple outline of how to structure and run a lightweight mock interview. The depth and quality of preparation and rehearsal will undoubtedly vary, so show them how even a single session will improve the prospects of their individual teenager by an order of magnitude.
  • Feedback. Chasing employment and work opportunities is inevitably a numbers game. Set parents up to support their teenager through the setbacks by helping them to understand that, just like a cricket or football match, some days you just do lose. There’s always another match and practice (and experience) eventually makes perfect. Provide parents with the practical steps of capturing feedback and identifying what can be learnt from it.

It’s really not rocket science

None of those actions require expert knowledge, special skills or significant time on the part of parents. To make a significant difference to the prospects for, and the employability of, their individual teenager, they only require the motivation to undertake them. Thankfully, that’s something that the majority of parents have in spades. Thankfully also, the one thing your careers service is not short of is parents or guardians. It’s hard not to see a massive win-win-win from putting all those pieces together.

About the Author

Jon Gregory is the co-contributor and editor of the free publication “A Guide for Parents: Steering your teenager toward a job and career”, distributed nationally by schools and colleges to parents. During NCW 2018, he’s pledged to run a telephone / Skype ‘Advice Clinic’ on employability, free for up to 100 parents of pupils and students, during the week. Jon is a published author in this field, writes for several leading websites and edits Win-That-Job.com, a site providing employability advice, tips and services. He tweets from @letsfirewalk