Let’s ban the word ‘careers’

By Tami McCrone

Thursday 18 September 2014

Let’s ban it in recognition that the careers guidance system so far in this country has not worked.

Let’s ban it because the word is no longer appropriate. Let’s move on. Let’s call it World of Work Education (WOWE). Let’s embed WOWE in all key stages of our education system.

In the real world (outside the education bubble) do we talk about careers? Don’t we talk about ‘work’ or ‘jobs’? Don’t we say: ‘When you leave school what job are you going to do?’; ‘Bye kids, I’m going to work now’; ‘I’m job hunting’?

‘Careers’ implies you select a career and progress through it to retirement. That is not how the world works today. In addition, the term ‘careers education and guidance’ brings with it a baggage of underperformance. It’s time for something new.

In primary schools WOWE would broaden the connection of pupils to the wider world. It could include:

  • Learning that there is a vast array of possible jobs – all presented as equally valuable
  • You can decide on what job you want to do depending on your interests; strengths; how you want to work (e.g. working outside, in an office, working for yourself, using your hands, being creative etc)
  • For all types of jobs you need to be able to communicate well – orally, on paper and with numbers
  • For all jobs you need to turn up on time, be pleasant and cooperative and most likely be able to work with others
  • We all need to work and contribute to society
  • We all will carry on learning throughout our lives
  • Work improves feelings of wellbeing.

And very importantly at primary level, let’s include parents and teachers on the journey. We know parents are far more proactive in their child’s learning at primary stage.

At key stage 3 (aged 11-14) WOWE could include:

  • Expanding and building on the primary points above
  • Developing the concepts of aspiration, resilience and different types of intelligence e.g. emotional intelligence
  • Subject teachers providing a clear connection between their subjects and links to different types of jobs
  • Developing decision-making skills for a complex world full of choices
  • Direct input from employers in innovative and creative ways
  • Expert, independent and impartial advice on local job markets and provision from local education providers.

Let’s take teachers and parents along with us through key stage 3. So by the end of key stage 3, at age 14, young people can make informed choices about key stage 4 decisions – which institution to attend; subject and course choices; and the importance of keeping your options open. Additionally, let’s appreciate that although there is clearly a place for online information and support, young people need (and want) to discuss their plans and concerns with trusted adults in person.

At key stage 4 (aged 14-16) WOWE could include:

  • Developing and building on all the above
  • Information and guidance about post-16 and post-18 routes to work: apprenticeships; study programmes; traineeships; colleges; universities; jobs with training; starting your own business etc (let’s stop talking about ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ routes).

Wouldn’t that system be more focused on the young people’s needs rather than the current system?

I do welcome the continued focus on the inadequacies of our careers guidance system – this can only help to support the case for change. In recent weeks these have included:

1. The Ofsted report: Transforming 16 to 19 education and training: the early implementation of 16 to 19 study programmes (2014)

Finally, in order for learners to make the most of the new study programmes, high-quality careers advice and guidance are essential. Learners are entitled to receive impartial information and advice about the full range of available provision to inform their choices about the most suitable provider for them. However, too much careers guidance about the full range of options available to young people through the 16-19 study programmes was weak.’ (p.5)

2. The Centre for Social Justice report: The Journey to Work (2014)

Crucially, we should not wait until a young person with a high likelihood of becoming long-term unemployed actually finds themselves out of work before offering them help. We describe a four-stage journey:

Stage 1: Education for employment – this stage begins when a young person is in primary and secondary education and focuses on ensuring that they are properly prepared for work. (p.24)

3. The National Careers Council report: Taking action: achieving a culture change in careers provision (2014)

Finally, I [Deidre Hughes, Chair NCC] am convinced that in order to halt the trend of the last decade, where the top part of society prospers and the bottom part stagnates, a renewed focus and investment in careers provision is required. (p.3)

I also welcome all efforts to improve the system such as our new study, in collaboration with South East Strategic Leaders, Greater London Authority and London Councils, to identify promising ways for SMEs and microbusinesses and schools and colleges, in London and the South East, to work more effectively together.

But it really is time to move away from the dated ‘bolted-on careers guidance’ model to one with some WOWE factor from Year 1 onwards.