We recently wrote a white paper in which we made a suggestion for protected time within the school timetable for career-planning activity. For many people in the careers debate this might automatically mean that we’re endorsing the provision of at least one full time careers adviser in each school. However, we’re not making that claim………….. Whilst we think a full-time adviser is a great thing, we don’t see it as a stand-alone answer to the existing problem. There are many other resources and activities that a student job-applicant needs to be aware of that could have greater impact on their employment prospects throughout their working lifetime.
As we’ve discussed in other posts, we don’t think that the default route of “further education and academic qualification” is helpful to most pupils. The UK system is disproportionately set up to favour the academic route, and whilst it suits some, it shouldn’t be the default for all. What is required is some understanding of how to earn a living out of any qualification after the end of education .
There follow a number of reasons why we do not think a full time adviser alone is a satisfactory solution to the problem:
There is a real danger that the funding and appointment of an individual or team will encourage school leaders and pupils alike to think that the “careers” task is therefore complete. Sadly finding out about your potential career progression, and planning a pathway are more complicated activities than can be addressed in the limited amount of time a single pupil could hope to access through one-to-one support whilst at school. On this basis, and in face of scarce financial resources, let’s think more creatively.
Given that the career-learning requirement goes beyond school (both in terms of time and expertise) then we feel it is unwise to see the investment in a Full-time specialist support role in school as the only answer. Our focus should be to encourage pupils to request greater advisory support from outside school.
The cost of a Full-Time careers advisor means that schools might be forced not to engage with other career-informing activities for budgetary reasons. Given the breadth of resource and event available in the market place, we think it might suit some schools better to make time for career planning activity and use any extra funds to purchase resources and licences than it is to have someone paid to be within the school full time.
If a school chose not to hire a full-time adviser, then a collection of schools could share the cost to pay for someone to direct the activities that could be undertaken in any protected timetable slot. In this way a school could make their budget stretch further to incorporate other services.
The nature of modern careers is such that the scope and complexity of career-planning information is likely to be beyond the scope of a single person or small team. There is simply too much information for one adviser to know.
In addition the nature of employment in the modern age (a strong likelihood of multiple employers over several careers) suggests that any careers advice given at school or university is possibly redundant within a short space of time. Expectations of life-long careers in one field are the preserve of very few people in the modern age, and therefore we don’t consider that the investment is best in school.
The clear call from employers is for entry-level job-seekers who are self-managers and problem-solvers. As inferred above, should an individual think that they can rely exclusively on the support of a full-time careers adviser whilst at school, then they would likely be putting themselves at a disadvantage in the labour market.
Career planning requires the input of many ideas and opinions, and therefore the “project” of finding and planning work experience, advice, placements is a perfect opportunity for job-seekers to demonstrate to prospective employers their attitude and enthusiasm. Given the scale of the task, the proposed career-planning could also be a team-based activity, which would further encourage employers.
Bizenko has designed a template that will help an individual learner navigate this challenge. The pupils just need the certain knowledge of protected timetable hours over a period of time to be able to manage this critical career-planning activity. Started in Year 10 or year 11, this proposal would have the benefit of becoming a credible alternative to the UCAS model of academic progression.
Given protected timetable hours, and the breadth of resources available, any committed teacher can guide a student in the process of applying for a first job or HE course. There are huge numbers of available resources, but not necessarily the curriculum time.
Sadly, there is also the concern of partiality in any school-funded careers advisor. Whilst we don’t believe there are many people who would go into the careers advice profession in order to mislead or obstruct, the UK Education Select committee discussed such events in their meeting of 7th January 2015 (Click here for the transcript, the relevant questions are 7,10,14 and 131) . There are reports of regrettable instances where schools have sought to protect their own financial interests at 6th Form entry rather than to provide whole-market information to Year 11 pupils.
Such temptations might be caused as part of a wider problem of schools funding, but the range of comments within this blogpost suggests that a solution to the challenges facing careers provision can be found without needing to redraft the larger matter of schools funding.