Working with a Careers Advisor

By far my most valuable resource as a careers leader is our highly qualified careers adviser, Rachel. The vast majority of our school budget for careers guidance is spent on a contract with a Matrix accredited careers guidance provider. This ensures that our students have access to impartial careers advice and guidance when they need it most. Many schools are not fortunate enough to have a careers adviser in their school every week, and have decided to use their budgets elsewhere. Although DfE statutory guidance clearly states that schools should provide access to independent and impartial guidance from a qualified careers advisor, there has been some variation in how schools choose to interpret this, and many are choosing to signpost the National Careers Service. The National Careers Service allows students to access a career advisor via a telephone line.

The role of the careers adviser in our school is three fold:

  • To do face to face interviews with students to ensure that they make informed choices, and smooth transitions to their next phase of education or training
  • To track the destinations of our Year 11 students
  • To advise and input towards a stable careers program in the school

Careers Counselling

Almost everyone that I speak to has an idea about what a careers advisor does, and in fact when I tell people that I am Head of Careers in a school, this is the most common misconception I face. “So you tell students what jobs they should do”, more often than I should, I will reply “Yes something like that.” whereas in fact that is neither my job nor that of our careers advisor. Rachel will take the information that we provide her about a student and ask the students about their own goals. She may provide information about career paths that the students had not considered, but more importantly she will tell the student what they need to do in order to realise their own ambitions, and tailor that information to the student’s individual circumstances.

Tracking Student Destinations*

Schools are required to share the intended destination of every Year 11 student with the local authority. There are a number of ways in which the school may choose to collect this information, but having a careers advisor in school, working with Year 11 students helps considerably. One of the key performance indicators for every school is the proportion of its students who eventually become NEET (Not in Education Employment or Training). By issuing students with questionnaires, or timetabling meetings with tutors. I can pick up students whose aspirations are not matching with predicted grades, or who will need support to choose a suitable course, or complete an application form. These students are then given an appointment with the careers adviser. The students’ are given action plans to work on, and their most likely destination is recorded. Rachel will let me know if she thinks that a student will need a follow up appointment, but tutors and parents are given the action plans so that they can support the student.

A Stable Careers Program

The work of the careers advisor forms one small but crucial element in a careers program that will inform, educate, advise and guide students to a confident approach to work and employment after school. The other elements of a gold standard careers program have been set out in the Gatsby report on Good Career Guidance which has become further enshrined in statutory guidance set out by the DfE in Jan 2018. Much of a careers leader’s time is currently taken up with assessing how their schools program measures up to these benchmarks and planning how to move further towards meeting them, without using more of the school’s resources. This has left many careers leaders feeling like the miller’s daughter in the story of Rumplestiltskin, expected to spin straw into gold. However, with a supportive management, there is much that can be achieved.**

A careers advisor is a valuable asset in helping to meet the benchmarks and can offer assemblies, or workshops to share up to date labour market information, or specialist knowledge with larger groups of students. Last year, I asked our careers advisor to do some research about what degree apprenticeships were currently available, and she delivered an assembly to our Year 12 students, as well as training for our sixth form tutors so that they could better advise their tutees.

To summarise, although there are schools that are delivering careers programs without the help of a qualified careers advisor, this is one cost efficiency that I would be reluctant to make.

*Oxfordshire County Council have published some useful background information and tips for tracking student destinations.

**Resources to help careers leaders work with teachers and management to deliver the Gatsby Benchmarks are available from Trotman and National Careers Week.

About the Author

Farheen Khan is Head of Careers and Employability at a multi academy trust. Find her on twitter @f4rheen