Thoughts on Careers Guidance

I was fascinated to hear recently about Professor Frans Meijers’ research showing how between 1976 and 1998 the types of occupations within the labour market had changed almost beyond recognition. The sum total of my careers education and guidance was one lesson on completing the UCAS form and a careers interview in my final year of university in which I was exhorted to become an accountant for reasons I have never understood. The days in which careers guidance was about showing the way to a limited number of easily understood occupations have most definitely gone. At the same time the number and range of routes into exciting careers has diversified and expanded. University is one option. There are many others including the new degree apprenticeships.  Add to this the fact that employers are quite clear that academic qualifications, though important, are not enough. The ability to demonstrate and above all articulate a range of employability skills is crucially important.

All of this adds to the vital importance of providing a programme of careers education and guidance of the highest quality in all schools. This is no minor challenge at a time when there is little or no specific funding for most schools and many other preoccupations arising from all of the different reforms that are underway.

During the last few years government policy has focused largely on one aspect of this – employer engagement. This is of course vitally important and the commitment of a large and growing number of employers to reach out to schools is immensely welcome. There are many different ways in which schools can take advantage of this including having an Enterprise Adviser or making use of schemes like Inspiring the Future. Thankfully now the policy emphasis has broadened focusing on all of the Gatsby Benchmarks.

The new strategy is a useful source of reference but as with all developments it is school leaders who will make this work in their own contexts. In the large number of schools I support I have been seeing some excellent practice; innovative approaches to work experience, carefully targeted guidance by qualified professionals and a coherent, school wide strategy ensuring that every curriculum area can make its unique contribution.  The best programmes are fully integrated into an overarching curriculum policy.

National Careers Week  is a great initiative which comes directly from professionals. It is an opportunity to celebrate and publicise the vast range of opportunities open to young people. There are some useful free resources which I strongly recommend to schools.

About the Author

Brian Lightman was Gen. Sec. of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) from 2010-2016. He is now a freelance education leadership specialist. Find him on twitter @brianlightman