From this term, schools must provide their pupils with access to independent careers guidance. While some people have expressed concerns about this new duty, I believe it presents an opportunity for schools to secure a careers service which meets their pupils’ particular needs. However, it also places a responsibility on schools to ensure that careers guidance is of the highest quality. Students are entitled to access independent and impartial advice so that they can find out about the full range of options.
To make informed decisions at each stage of their education, students need to know what is available, not just what their current school provides. Students becoming disengaged with education need to know about alternative paths.
To get the most out of the various careers guidance information resources available, pupils need access to a trained and qualified advisor who can help them understand the material and who keeps up-to-date with changes in guidance and available options.
Young people will often use computer-aided guidance packages without being fully informed of their purpose or how they work. This can lead to students not completing questions accurately and receiving career suggestions that appear quite random.
It is the role of the advisor to support students with understanding how these packages work and why such suggestions arise. The advisor can support the student with analysing the information and finding out more about themselves and how this links with job roles or personality types.
Similarly, students regularly use online resources to gain information, but may not have the full understanding needed to evaluate them. A student may have gathered information on a number of university courses and have the facts and information, yet be unable to make a choice on what is right for them. It is the role of the advisor to guide the student through this information and support them in making an informed choice.
The world of work
In the current climate, qualifications are not enough to secure jobs; pupils need to understand the world of work and its requirements. Working with employers to provide opportunities like career and employment presentations, visits to organisations and work experience helps students to make informed choices about their career path and be prepared when they finish education.
If used creatively, work-based learning can also support the wider curriculum and provide a way of bringing subjects to life. Activities that support work-based learning can be established within a school quite easily when employers back and support a school. In my school, we have had employers visit and conduct mock interviews, which was an excellent experience for our students.
Careers fairs, where employers come into the school to provide advice and give students a chance to try their hand at work-related activities, are another way of bringing career education to life. They also provide an opportunity for students to network and make links to potential future employment opportunities.
An advisor who is proactive in building links with employers can help students who are at risk of finding themselves not in education, employment or training, and who may benefit from spending part of their time in work-based training. Building links with employers enables businesses to understand the education system and inform teachers of the skills required.
Advisors should build links with higher education just as they do with business in order to raise the aspirations of pupils.
Advice on higher education and visits to universities are important for pupils from as early as year 7 so that they can explore the wide range of options available to them. Schools should, where possible, work with local universities to support this.
Pupils’ aims around work and further study will likely change over the course of their time in school. But having an aim – and advice on how to achieve it – is a boost to their motivation. And the better information they have, the more they can make informed choices about their future.
Gathering and understanding feedback is crucial to delivering effective advice and guidance. Ensuring that pupils, teachers and parents are happy with the provision is key to building and maintaining good relationships. Quality guidance should be led by the needs the school has identified. Collecting evidence therefore helps make sure that these needs are being met and pupils are getting the greatest possible benefit from our work.
Working with teachers
Providing careers guidance is not just down to the advisor, though. For the best results advisors should work with school staff to incorporate careers guidance into the curriculum for all year groups.
Advisors and other staff should work together to write a careers education work-plan for each year group to be delivered at specified points of the year. By keeping teachers informed of the information, advice and guidance (IAG) work undertaken in the school, they can tap into additional IAG support which is relevant to their subject areas.
At the school I work in, some courses have a career exploration module which sits hand-in-hand with the work of the IAG advisor. We have also had teachers from various departments linking with local businesses to see how their subject is used in the world of work, including in maths, business and languages.
Teachers need to receive specialist training on careers guidance so that they can use tutorials to identify the aims of students and advise them on how to get there. By working together, advisors and teachers can deliver a careers advice service which is nimble-footed and responsive to their pupils’ needs.
Careers guidance exists in a fractured landscape, but an effective careers guidance service can pull together the different opportunities available, and help pupils make the most of them. For some pupils, it might make the difference between drifting without direction and engaging with education.
Careers guidance dutyThe SecEd and Association of School and College Leaders’ Guide To Careers Guidance, published earlier this year, outlines the new duties on schools to offer students in years 9 to 11 “independent and impartial” careers guidance. It includes information about how schools can use both in-house and external business and careers expertise, guidance directly from the Department for Education, as well as best practice advice and case studies. Download a PDF of the Guide free of charge from www.sec-ed.co.uk/supplements
Sarah Chapman is an Everything Connects (U-Explore) guidance professional.