This article from the Guardian this week has had a lot of publicity in my Twitter feed, Let’s Ditch careers advisers, or we’ll have a nation of fish farmers I’d wanted to comment on it but by the time I got around the comments were closed. Hence my post here.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, sets out why careers advisers are expendable with a very common argument , one that is prevalent in the UK amongst many sections of society. headteachers being, for once, in agreement with Gove and not seeing the value of true careers education have helped perpetuate this view. I’d like to set out an alternative view, one that I’ve shaped over 16 years of championing careers work in schools.
For those that don’t know me, I’m not a careers adviser, I’m a teacher. One of the ones that, by accident, ended up being responsible for careers in a rather poorly achieving school in east London during the 90s. From there I was mentored by the local advisory teacher for careers and ended up studying careers education at Cambridge University under the wonderful David Andrews. from there I went on to work in a number of schools, each time taking the almost non-existent careers provision and turning it into top quality provision. Not my judgement by the way, but one that the Investor in Careers programme endorsed. So my credentials established, lets look at why Rhiannon is a victim of the current and past system of careers in schools.
Rhiannon didn’t receive Careers Education.
What she accessed, based on her description, appears to be simply a bolt on afterthought, probably delivered in very time poor circumstances by non specialists who had been given the material with little support. In fact, what most young people in the last 10 years or so have had access to.
Most headteachers or teachers for that matter, have very little knowledge or understanding of careers work. In the past Connexions provided a support network to improve what was delivered but it was nowhere near perfect. Now, the support of Connexions is gone, headteachers are at a loss. They shouldn’t be expected to be experts in everything, but they should have access to experts to guide them. Gove seems to think that this should now be the employer governor that he wants on every school governing body. Having seen how little employers know of schools and schools know of employers all I can say is good luck with that one!
Careers Guidance isn’t a 30 minute interview in year 10 or 11.
It is a process of well thought out and tailored interventions based on the needs of:-
- The young person and their needs and wishes
- The locality and it’s labour needs along with the needs of the wider community.
- The educational and financial constraints of the young person’s social situation and their capacity for mobility.
What I’ve outlined above and covered in more depth in my earlier post What Heads don’t know they don’t know about careers requires far more than employers coming into schools to talk to pupils and open their eyes to the big wide world. It requires thought and planning and most of all time and resources to make it work.
The major areas for thought are below.
1 Quality Control.
After years of being paranoid about who comes into school, we’re now meant to open wide our doors and let any employer in to talk to pupils? Well pardon my old-fashioned mode of speech but not on your Nelly. I have some questions that need to be answered.
- Where do young people get their careers advice from at the moment?
- What sort of advice are pupils looking for?
- Who is available to come in to school and talk to our pupils and are they going to be engaging?
- How will I ensure that my learning objectives are met and what are the objectives or the visiting speaker?
- What do the pupils want from the speaker? Do they even want to listen to them? Will the speaker be engaging and motivating?
I have far more questions, but you get the general idea. Who in school has the time and knowledge to oversee this task?
2 Programme content
The reason for my title. Who are these employers who are willing to come into schools? If you spend a little time looking around the net you will see that the majority of support from employers and professional associations is from banking, accountancy and science based industries. Yes there is a limited amount of support for other industries but is there enough to go around? Have a look at Total Professions for a really quick overview.
3 Do we have the people with the skills to lead and plan programmes relevant to each school
If headteachers are to deliver even basic level decent career education we must ask who do we have in schools that is capable? Remember, we want to run the kind of provision that is needed to enable our young people to manage their own career paths. After all, the 21C is a very different place to the world most headteachers grew up in. In my view, headteachers will put in place one of the following 3 to coordinate the process.
- A teacher to oversee
- A careers advisor
- An administrator
None of the 3 will have all of the required knowledge or skills to undertake this complex role and all 3 will need training in at least some areas in order to do the job well. All will have a huge job on their hands. All will need support.
I’ll finish with the Career Development Institute’s response to Gove’s comments about careers advice on 18th December
“Mr Gove is right to highlight two urgent areas for action – the critical importance of raising educational standards and the power of inspirational business people offering real insight into the world of work. However, it’s hardly reasonable to discount the views of the ministerially appointed National Careers Council, Ofsted, the CBI, Association of Colleges, The Association of School and College Leaders and the British Chambers of Commerce as being self interested when they have urged government to do more to support effective careers provision. It’s also sad to see that the political position in England is so significantly at odds with the investment being made in government funded provision in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”