Preparing students for the world of work

I read an interesting article today on the BBC, reporting that careers advice is on ‘life support’ in many schools in England, with teenagers having little knowledge of the workplace. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22966374

There have been many concerns about the quality of the careers advice that is currently offered to students during their education, resulting in worries that young people lack an understanding of the jobs market. Whilst there is advice available online and through special phone lines that have been set up, it’s the face-to-face guidance – arguably the most important bit – that seems to be lacking.

When I think back to my school days (which admittedly was a while ago now), I would probably say I wasn’t offered the level of careers guidance that I would have liked. It seemed like, rather than actually helping us find out what sort of job we’d be suited to, they asked us what we wanted to be and then told us what we needed to, academically, in order to get there.

Bearing in mind today’s job market is far more complex than it used to be, it is possibly more important than ever for students to be provided with structured careers guidance during their school days, when they still have time to gather the necessary skills and experience for the career they’re keen to follow. It goes without saying that young people need the skills that employers demand – we can’t really afford to waste talent when the long-term economic outlook is so challenging.

While I think careers advice is essential for students and is definitely something that should be considered as more of a priority in schools, I don’t think it’s enough on its own.

Work experience is something that I would consider as invaluable. Not only does it provide young people with some idea of what they do and don’t enjoy, which is useful when it comes to choosing a career path, but it also gives them (and their CV) an edge that other candidates going for the same job may not have – experience, skills and transferability for example.

When I did my compulsory work experience in Year 10, I spent two weeks at a primary school. Although it wasn’t the career path that I chose to take in the end, it provided me with a basic understanding of the world of work, and gave me the chance to basically live a week in the life of a teacher, with a taste of some of the responsibilities that they are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

I also feel that ‘real world’ skills are hugely important, and that students need to be armed with them when they leave school. These are the skills that allow young people to adapt and learn – communication, problem solving and team working, for example. These, among others, are things that will prepare students for the world of work and are transferable skills that can be put into practice when they arrive for their first day in a new job.

To summarise, I think careers advice at school is extremely important. I don’t think it’s enough on its own though, it’s a part of the bigger picture. In my opinion, the combination of advice, experience and skills is what students need, and with the right balance of these they’ll be raring to go!

Lydia

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