For our final blog of the series for National Careers Week, we look back at a post from over a couple of years ago which still feels partly relevant today…
‘Out and about last weekend I couldn’t help but listen in to the conversation that a group of young people were having as they stood behind me in a queue at a checkout. They were talking about how they wanted to be like various ‘celebrities’ when they got older (I have to admit I didn’t recognise the names but I’m reliably informed that the people that they were discussing as role models appear in ‘The Only Way is Essex’, ‘Made in Chelsea’ and various other similar TV shows!) The young people were talking about how they wanted to emulate these celebrities with their own fashion and beauty lines and ownership of bars and clubs.
While I recognise that it’s not surprising that young people see these media personalities as something to aspire to, I can’t help but feel sad that these young people aren’t seeing people like Rianne Chester, Gary Doyle or Sam Turner as their role models instead, and that they are not aspiring to be like Rebecca Wilson, Shayne Hadland or Edward Harrington.
The sad reality is that most of us will have no idea as to who these people are – and they should be household names.
These young professionals, alongside Jonathan Gill, Matthew Beesley and Christopher Bailie, are officially the world’s best and most skilled individuals who undoubtedly have fantastic careers ahead of them.
Rianne, Gary, Sam and the others mentioned above represented our country at WorldSkills back in August 2015. Competing amongst 1,200 young people from across the world, they and others from the UK were demonstrating the world-beating expertise that they have developed, during their relatively short careers, in everything from Aircraft Maintenance to Beauty Therapy, Landscape Gardening, Electrical Installation and IT Software Solutions.
The UK won three gold, four silver and two bronze medals plus medallions of excellence – but just two months later it’s fair to say that all of those winners, who are the best in the world at their jobs and have skills that our economy desperately needs now and in the future, are largely anonymous.
Aside from a brief appearance on BBC Breakfast and some newspaper coverage during the week of the competition, there has been virtually no media coverage of these highly successful young people. And that’s a real shame because their success was a real opportunity to inspire millions of young people to see how developing skills can give you real opportunities both as a young person and into your future.
We often hear talk of a need for parity of esteem between learning pathways, between apprenticeships and degrees. So why as a nation aren’t we shouting from the rooftops about the achievements of these talented young people who have pursued non-academic, technical routes?
Other countries in Europe plus those in Asia and North and South America regard their winners and all of their competitors as people to be incredibly proud of. They champion their representatives as stars and reward them as such. They send hundreds of people as a support team for their competitors including high profile government ministers and presidents of their countries biggest employers. They reward competitors with big sums of cash, houses and cars. Their pictures appear on billboards nationwide. They have their education fees paid for them and on their return attend high profile receptions with their heads of state.
If young people and those who influence them saw the success that skills training and taking on the challenge these types careers can bring, we could really start to change perceptions and break down the barriers that prevent more young people being inspired to develop the skills that employers desperately need.
The need to change those perceptions and make young people understand that there are great alternatives to academic pathways which are challenging but which offer so many rewards, is as great as ever.
We really must champion those who are pursuing these much-needed skills and careers and use their example to show that technical and vocational careers and pathways are not ‘risky’, ‘2nd class’ or ‘easier’.
So when we get the opportunity to showcase successful young people who are pursuing strong careers and developing the skills our economy relies on, we must make sure that we make the most of it – and once we’ve done that keep the momentum going. Wouldn’t it be great if young people were as familiar with the names of these young skills champions, as they are the celebrities from TOWIE and MIC?’
We hope you have enjoyed our series of blogs for National Careers Week – thank you for reading them.
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