The challenges of delivering careers guidance

Last week, a small team from CASCAiD visited an academy in Lincolnshire to support a careers day.

As part of the day, Year 10 students had the opportunity to take part in sessions with various employers from a number of industry sectors.

We spent the day talking to young people who wanted to find out more about careers in IT.

It was interesting to find out more about young people’s motivations and interests as part of career exploration.

Most students we spoke to had some ideas about what they wanted to do in the future. Some had a specific career idea. Others had an area of work or an industry in mind, such as design. A few knew that they wanted a career based on a subject which interested them, such as history.

Most of those that we spoke to were particularly interested in IT-related careers but we also spoke to students who had ideas as diverse as museum curator, film producer, RAF engineer and tattooist.

Our conversations with this group of young people did raise some interesting questions and highlighted some of the challenges of delivering careers guidance to young people.

For example, one student wanted to be a professional footballer. This was the only career idea that he was interested in pursuing. Without wanting to crush his ambition, at some point in the not too distant future this student needs to start considering other options in case this highly competitive, talent-based occupation doesn’t work out for him.

But how to do that in a constructive way? Other related options such as coaching, community sports development, sports science, etc, were suggested to this student but he was so fixed on becoming a footballer that he refused to consider anything else. So how can teachers and advisers tackle unrealistic career ideas, especially where it may be affecting a young person’s achievement, eg, their effort in certain subjects suffers because they feel that they won’t need it in their future career?

And it isn’t just true of talent-based careers. Other careers for which there is high competition and limited places also came up when young people were discussing their career ideas.

We asked one group whether they’d like to be told if there was a limited chance of getting into a career that they were interested in.

All of the young people said they would like to know what their chances of getting into a career were but they also agreed that if it was something that they really wanted to do they wouldn’t be put off by knowing that competition was strong.

We also spent some time asking students about what influences their career ideas.

Parents and family were the biggest factor, with most saying that parents were encouraging them to think about what they want to do in the future and in some cases offering ideas of potential career paths. However, there was also a distinct view that parents wanted them to concentrate on their studies and do well in as many areas as possible so that they had plenty of future options rather than focussing too much on a specific career goal.

This raises the issue of striking the right balance between having career ideas which focus ambition and give a young person something to aspire to and keeping your options open.

Another issue raised by parental/family influence is around equality of opportunity and social mobility.

One student who was keen on working in the media had family links into the sector and had been helped by his parents to engage with employers. This obviously gives this young person an advantage in getting into their desired career over others who don’t have that background.

Whilst initiatives to encourage social mobility can help to highlight opportunities to young people, from a practical perspective there does still seem to be a strong element of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ which gives some young people an advantage over their peers.

These are just a few of the issues and challenges that advisers and teachers can face when delivering careers information, advice and guidance to young people.

We regularly discuss topics like these in our LinkedIn group. You don’t need to be a CASCAiD customer to join; you just need an interest in careers guidance related issues. To join, please click here.

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