“It is possible for any type of school to provide very effective careers guidance.” Ofsted

“It is possible for any type of school to provide very effective careers guidance.” Ofsted

Following the release of Ofsted’s thematic review of careers guidance, Going in the right direction?, the media, guidance professionals and educational representative bodies have been heavily critical of school’s ability to provide their students with access to the right guidance to help them plan their future.

What hasn’t been championed as highly is the fact that Ofsted found that that it is possible for schools to do a good job, evidenced by the activity that inspectors witnessed in a fifth of the schools visited.

‘Careers as part of the curriculum’

The job of a school is to prepare a young person with skills and knowledge to equip them to lead a fulfilling and effective life as an adult. Integral to an effective adult life, in the vast majority of cases, will be a means of earning, which, again in most cases, will be a ‘career’. All of the learning and development that takes place in a school is contributing to this and therefore careers or futures guidance needs to be a key element of every activity which takes place in a school.

Linking curriculum delivery to careers enables students to understand the importance of what they are learning. Without a clear correlation between what they are learning at school and how it will benefit them in the future it is unsurprising that many students ‘switch-off’ from some subjects.

Embedding careers activities throughout the curriculum helps to ensure that all teaching staff take responsibility for supporting students to explore future options. This in turn helps to raise achievement because students are clear about how effort employed will lead to better opportunities in the future. It also paves the way for better guidance by equipping students with knowledge and the ability to make better use of dedicate ‘guidance’ support when they need it.

‘Not all students need the same level of careers guidance at the same time’

Take a class of 30 students and ask the question “What do you want to do with your future?” Some will inevitably answer that they do not know. Others may state a very clear career idea. Some will have an ambition to work in a certain industry whilst others will be keen to work in an area which will enable them to apply knowledge of their favourite subject. A few may state a desire to start their own business or to study/work overseas.

The fact is that within that group there will be a variety of different starting points, motivations, ideas, levels of maturity and abilities. This is why a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Trying to apply the same level of careers activity/intervention to every student at the same point in their learning journey is flawed. It will enviably fall between the stalls. Those that have ideas, are more motivated, understand the importance of exploration and knowledge development are constrained and stifled when provision is pitched to support those who have limited ideas or understanding of the importance of starting to explore their options in terms of learning, training and employment. Similarly, progressing with an expectation that all students know enough about themselves to start exploring future options, results in those who don’t get left behind.

Careers guidance is not a one off activity. It is a series of events which equips young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make truly informed decisions about their future. To a certain extent the timing of these events will be constrained by transition points but they should be led by the needs of the student.

‘We need guidance on how to make the most of the career guidance’

This was one of the standout statements in the Ofsted review report, quoted from a group of young people. Before guidance can be effective, it is vital that young people understand it, how to get what they need from it and why it is important. Too often careers guidance is an activity which is ‘done’ to a young person. They need to understand it and, to a certain extent, lead it if they are going to get benefit from it.

Careers education was the starting point for many young people and included activities which helped them understand the general aspects of ‘career’ and develop exploration skills. A significant amount of this activity disappeared with changes to Work Related Learning. But the need for understanding how to use opportunities for exploring future options and getting the most out of opportunities to do so is now more crucial than ever. Not just to help students explore future options but also so that they are better equipped to manage their long-term career options as they transition through life. Understanding how to access guidance support and information and using it effectively will help prepare young people for career change events that they are likely to experience as an adult.

Where next?

At CASCAID the most important thing is that there is a plan to improve and provide a resource which really meets the needs of the young person and helps them to make effective decisions about their future and we are continuing our commitment to helping schools to do this.

We offer more personalised journeys through our programmes which recognise each young person’s starting point and use what they already know about themselves and their own ideas to help them kick-start their career exploration.

We help young people make realistic career decisions by giving more insight into the labour market, highlighting the real opportunities for future employment. Providing young people with the first steps to engaging with employers by introducing them to future employment opportunities, and ensuring that schools can measure the effectiveness of the careers exploration and guidance activity that they undertake and show the value and impact of the careers support that young people receive. CASCAID are determined to ensure that we are part of the solution in improving careers guidance for all young people.

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