As part of a crowdfunding video I just scripted (click here to watch the finished version) I made reference to the multiple flaws that I think exist in the current system for leaving education and securing a first job. Because video production is so expensive I couldn’t list and explain them all in the video, so I’ll try and produce a bit more detail below.
I left education and got my first job nearly 20 years ago, and yet the system hasn’t really changed a great deal since then (see earlier post about Careers fairs). My main observation is that the process doesn’t leave the individuals with anything positive that they can take away and “use”, it merely filters them for the benefit of employers. The technology might have changed a little bit, but the same principles apply, and having struggled through the system, the fact that the system doesn’t do more for the individual astounds and irritates me.
In theory, I shouldn’t care because I’ve moved on and have a career; but actually, I do care.
As a Human Being I care that capable people are driven to frustration by the inequality of this system (the employers get what they want, but the majority of individuals do not). As an employer I fear that my future employees are being de-motivated before they get to find my company, that’s going to cost the employer money to rectify. As a parent I worry that my children will struggle to find any inspiration in the bland world of “transferable skills”, recruitment company assessment days and CV-writing tips.
So here, in nor particular order, and subject to additions, my list of flaws in the system:
1. Education doesn’t contain enough real-world / commercial content (the academic purists will hate this, but blindly hoping that abstract and generic skills will suffice for future employability is a gamble. Most students won’t have the comfort of a non-commercial existence once they start work, and therefore some context beforehand is critical).
2. “Find something that you’re interested in, and then find a course to suit” is not very helpful advice. Few people have the chance to do only the things they enjoy. We need to have an understanding of skills and knowledge outside our comfort zone. In addition, job-seekers need to work to integrate to an existing team or culture.
3. Specialism and narrowing of academic subjects (such as the 3-subject school leavers system in the UK) is an inappropriate for the modern workplace. (My observation with “narrow-front” specialism is that it suits Employers, but redundant workers tend to be less keen). Over-qualify at your peril.
4. Education systems that use narrow metrics (such as exam grades and university entrance) disadvantage the students who may be better suited to other outcomes. (We’ve written before about fantastic employment opportunities being ignored by students who are too busy being forced through the sausage machine of academic progression, click here to read the examples)
5. Education establishments have a captive audience when they suggest that further study is useful. I’m not blaming universities for the funding realities imposed on them, but further study beyond Bachelor level isn’t often as useful as the academics would have you believe. More debt and higher starting salary expectation on behalf of a student is seldom an attraction to an employer. I know some careers demand post-graduate study, but not as many as the system promotes! I met a very capable lady the other day, who held a “masters of graphic design” qualification. Surely a bachelors level and work experience is better than a masters?
6. Too many students who are not trained (or able or willing?) to take advice. We have run a number of seminars and workshops to help job-seekers into employment and have been surprised at the reluctance of certain students to accept advice from established practitioners. At a recent two-day seminar, we gave a selection of job-seekers exposure to a variety of employers and industry experts. The feedback from those employers and experts wasn’t a positive reflection of the British Education system! This is linked to point 2………. we need a greater dose of reality within the careers advisory process.
7. There are too many “snouts in the industry trough” to affect meaningful change. Too many people earn a living out of this status quo for there to be any realistic prospect that change might arise. Sadly, this gives rise to the unpleasant mentality of “They’re unemployed for a reason”. My fear is that a certain level of inactivity and failure is required to support the careers of all of these snouts! The purpose of some of these people should be to do themselves out of a job.
8. Some job-seekers can’t do the basics. Linked to point 6 above, job-seekers and students need to be more professional and efficient at point of first contact to succeed. The registration process for our seminars isn’t especially taxing, but mis-spelling your own name, mis-typing your own phone number, failing to pay sufficient attention to the detail have been alarmingly common mistakes. Attention to detail, spelling and completing basic administration tasks should be the norm. Job-seekers, especially Graduates and A-level applicants should be able to operate at a much better level than is the case in our experience. What is happening in schools if this isn’t the case?
I’d be interested to learn what others think of this list, and any additional points that affect your situation? Please shout out and let me know.