Good careers advice is perhaps more vital than it has ever been before, yet it is something that is lacking and often ‘patchy’ thanks to budget cuts. Parents are still the primary source of information but often this is out of date, biased or they don’t have the information or experience themselves. We need a career’s guidance revolution.
For today’s students, the world is changing at an incredible pace. Technological changes are expected to reduce the number of low-skilled jobs which are needed, including many ‘traditional’ roles in plants, processing and machine operations. A high number of admin roles are also predicted to be lost in the coming years. Technological changes also means that our young people will need a different set of skills and knowledge than we did when entering the job market. They need people available to give them up-to-date information about the sorts of qualifications, experiences and skills they need while they are still at school and college.
With student debt and youth unemployment on the increase, and many students, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, leaving college and university after their first year, it is becoming clear that our young people are lacking the information and guidance they needed to make the right choices for them in terms of further and higher education. It is imperative that school leavers continue on to further and higher education to gain those skills and qualifications they will need to enter the skilled jobs market.
There are many organisations trying to fill the gaps left by the budget cuts, such as Young Enterprise, Business in the Community, National Careers Service and Enterprise Company, Job Centre Plus and more. The problem is that the advisors within them aren’t always giving out up-to-date information or making certain that they are giving the right information to match that person’s needs. Having the word ‘business’ or ‘enterprise’ in the title of these organisations often gives the impression that the careers advice they give is restricted to those areas rather than industry and the world of work as a whole.
It is also important to remember that good careers advice is not solely for school leavers and young people, but others as well. Just as FE courses are available to adults wishing to retrain or further develop their skills, so to should careers advice. By 2024 we could see a further 2m jobs becoming available but the majority of these are in highly-skilled roles and there is doubt and concern about our ability to fill them as the UK is already suffering from skill shortages in many such roles.
What can you do?
There are many ways that you can guarantee that you are doing all you can to help provide high-quality impartial advice, not just to your learners but to anyone in your catchment area who may be interested.
First, in-house advice.
Make sure you have true guidance counsellors who operate under no career or qualification biases (such as degrees vs. apprenticeships) and are committed to ensuring they are up-to-date and give only relevant advice. They need to be dedicated to helping your learners find their path and make the right choices for them. They also need to be approachable, friendly and not liable to simply dismiss people’s ambitions or make judgements.
A nice space where people feel comfortable talking about their dreams, strengths and weaknesses, which promotes the different paths to career success and which is a place they feel they can find impartial guidance and support is also a must. You need to show, through the space you give your advisors, that you value this part of your service, rather than hidden away in a small office somewhere.
Another good idea would be to keep a careers advice section on your website – if possible, both your website and your intranet site, so prospective learners, current learners and even staff have the access to the information and opportunity to ask questions and book appointments easily.
Co-ordinate with schools
If the local schools have their own careers advisors, make sure to send out regular updates to the courses you have on offer, apprenticeship places and the current situation. Have your careers advisors liaise with the others to aid each other in supporting the young people and learners and provide the information they need.
If a school doesn’t have it’s own careers advisor, you could arrange for one of yours to visit that school and offer careers guidance perhaps on a monthly or termly basis, to help those students make their choices regarding further and higher education, A-levels and apprenticeships, college or sixth form.
Co-ordinate with other organisations
This well help your advisors stay on top of things by giving them the opportunity to work and share ideas with others, as well as share information and give each other support. It will also help spread the word about what your offering is not only to schools but to the wider public, and not just to school leavers but adults as well. The majority of people will be thinking only of visiting your website or calling for information on courses, rather than true careers advice and guidance. If you can provide both, then your net of prospective learners (and also employees) will widen.
Use the internet
Use social media and a well-designed website to spread the news of your FE offering through careers information and guidance. Keep a blog, keep everyone updated about the courses you offer, share success stories – not just qualifications achieved but of successful careers guidance, tweet and post about current employment figures, success rates, the need for skills etc. Other people on social media will help you by sharing posts, commenting and retweeting, getting the word out that you are a big deal in terms of careers advice and further education.
Why is it important?
There is still a lot of misinformation, prejudice and stereotypes about FE, gaining skills and careers. By doing your bit, especially if you work with others in your area, you aid in improving this situation and hopefully promote and encourage others to do the same. Establishing an effective and impartial careers guidance service will help secure the public and prospective students are aware of your FE offering and should also help them when deciding who they want to study with.
People are more likely to view you as a prospective trainer if they feel their whole journey will be supported, not just the achieving qualifications part. Everyone wants to feel valued and this will help demonstrate that you care about the people and not just the statistics. It may also help with costs and funding, as those who are supported are more likely to stick it out than drift away, and those receiving the correct guidance are more likely to have chosen the right path or courses for them, reducing the numbers of drop outs or non-achievers.
Offering impartial and supportive careers guidance will hopefully have the knock-on effect that more people complete not only their FE courses but go on to gain higher-level skills or HE qualifications.