Career Journeys for Young People – A book review

career journeys for young people

Released in October 2019, this book is a collection of 15 chapters that each focus on different areas of young people’s progression or career concerns and try to illuminate them to parents so that they can offer support and better nurture their children’s first steps into a career. Chapter titles range from the hopefully obviously needed (“GCSES: what they are and how to do well”) to the more thoughtful (“What happens if it all goes wrong? A philosophy for careers”).

The use of lists and tips is where the book gets across it’s messages succinctly and with the greatest impact. “10 top tips for introducing career ideas to 11 to 13 year olds” is decisive and clear for parents to take on board for example. The top tips for completing application forms are clear in purpose and helpful for parents who will be able to tick them off.

Elsewhere, in chapters that were more general in topic, I found the book battled to overcome the limitations of it’s format. Each chapter has a different author and, while it’s impressive that the overall friendly and reassuring tone is consistent throughout despite the varied contributors, this does lead to overlap of topics and repeated links to websites across the chapters. More general chapters such as “Year 12: Looking forward” and “Years 10 and 11: career planning and choices” are naturally going to introduce routes such as Higher Education or Apprenticeships will then leads to repeated content in the chapters specifically dedicated to those routes.

Each of the more general chapters aims for generic advice and guidance which can lead to a frustrating lack of specificity. The repetition of suggested websites across different chapters is also slightly self defeating. Careers Advisers know that many websites can be useful for a multitude of 1:1 topics but it could appear to a parent that they were being shortchanged seeing the same links, if the topics are important enough to devote chapters to them, then they should be important enough to devote websites to them.

Of course the authors want each and all to feel addressed to when reading the book but this lack of specificity reads as if the writers are offering all options to all readers which, while a useful method for comparison and to initiate discussion in a 1:1 guidance interview, is ineffective here because this is not a dialogue. The parent is left with the menu but no comment as to what would be the more suitable and accompanying choices. The purpose of the book aims to be the tool which will

be of enormous help to parents and other carers looking to support young people through the often complicated options that will lead to their future

but simultaneously also wants to walk a tightrope in giving the tools to parents but then not trusting them to use them as skillfully as required,

As a parent or carer you can introduce career ideas to your 11- to 13- year- old, but please do not, and ever feel you need to, take on the role of the careers adviser.

which has a valid kernel of advice as there could be support required by the young person that parents, even after reading “a starters guide” can’t offer. Careers professionals will be unbiased in their evaluation of a young person’s strengths and weaknesses, untainted by favoritism in regard to job roles or routes and more knowledgeable of the levers to pull and hoops to jump through when taking steps to enact decisions all of which will be skills many parents would struggle with. Like any of us though who watch a plumber’s youtube video on learning how to change a tap, there is a shared agreement between specialist and newcomer that, while the specialist is on call if the newcomer feels they would like to access them, the newcomer is free to attempt what they wish. Parents should feel empowered to nurture positive career building experiences for their children after reading the book rather than told to not take on this role. To be fair, much of the book does achieve this tone but I found this one warning an insight to a mindset that if, as Career professionals, we felt confident that parents would still seek us out because our service offered value then we could be more confident in empowering others.

The youtube example is also a hint at where the kind of message the book wants to convey might find a more suitable home. Videos or streams are formats which offer interaction, dialogue and regular updates. A book is not interactive and, once published, not easy to update but this then only begets the question as to why a book is the best method to reach and influence parents. What is gained through the medium compared to a series of short youtube videos or streams on the same topics? In a modern marketplace which could have the greater impact with a wider range of parents?

Another trapdoor that the book occasionally falls down is confusing the history of education policy with advice and guidance. It can be sometimes useful to recap the recent policy history of a qualification or employment routes in IAG sessions with clients (and their parents) as this can give helpful context as to why the route is designed in certain way or why the entry requirements are set at a certain level but, at times in the GCSE related chapters, I felt the book padded too heavily with policy history which a reader of Schools Week would find relevant but a parent might not.

The strengths of the book, for me, lie where the writing is more decisive and isn’t afraid to draw back the curtain

On the other hand, if the applicant’s estimated grades are sufficient and any other entry requirements are met, some courses at some universities might only give the statement a cursory glance.

and show the realities of what can be presented as systems requiring the utmost compliance but are actually only using selective information.

And when the authors aren’t afraid to couch their advice to parents

We must kill off this idea that those who are successful, succeed first time at everything or know their destiny from the start and then work towards it (such circumstances are incredibly rare). What happens for many of us is that we try things out and through doing so, begin to figure out what feels right for us.

This achieves a worthwhile impact by reaching out to address parental fears. As C.S Lewis said (at least the fictional version of him says in the play Shadowlands), “We read to know we’re not alone,” and a great reason for publishing a book on this topic is the ability to reassure parents that their fears of failure for their children in regards to career exploration are reasonable but should managed. Risk is part of the journey.

Many students find themselves ‘frozen’ by uncertainty or expectation and find moving forward or trying anything at all difficult. Sometimes it feels much safer to hide away and try nothing, as nothing is then risked or lost… yet in turn, nothing is gained.

And it is these messages sprinkled through the chapters that, in this format, can be underlined or highlighted and reread and cherished in times of uncertainty by a parent wanting the reassurance from a professional that they are making good choices for their children.

Career Journeys for Young People is available through all good bookshops and rubbish ones too.


10 ways to achieve careers education at home

10 ways to achieve careers education at home

Sent around by our helpful LEP team, I’ll update this as links occur to me or please leave suggestions in the comments below. Stay safe.


  1. Explore different job roles and the job market


Videos featuring real people talking about their careers


Information about different job roles


Information about over 350 job roles within the NHS


Lesson plans and articles


Quiz to find jobs that are suited to you


SEMLEP labour market Information


Labour market lesson plan and resources


More labour market information



  1. Find out about different courses and pathways


Information about apprenticeships


University exploration and course search


Guides on how subjects link to different careers


Compare universities


Information about uni alternatives


Advice on how to work in certain sectors


Leading university information


Search for courses by location



  1. Have a debate


Debate career myths and stereotypes with someone else (online or face-to-face):


“Bricklaying is a man’s job”

“Caring jobs (nurse, teacher, vet etc.) are for females”

“Only rich people go to university”

“Apprenticeships aren’t for academics”

“You need all A’s in your A Levels to go to University”

“Creative Industries don’t make any money”


Follow this up by researching online and writing down your thoughts.


  1. Watch educational videos and documentaries


Stacey Dooley’s BBC Series


Follow this up by writing about what you learnt.



  1. Play an educational game


Microsoft Minecraft



  1. Discover and build upon your skills and strengths


Life skills lesson plans and resources


Lesson plan and worksheet (Use CVDTWINKLHELPS code for free access)


A range of skills-based activities and information


Take this personality quiz or this one


Skills employers want



  1. Print and complete worksheets/workbooks


PSHE workbooks


Citizenship workbooks


Skills and activities workbook



  1. Take a free online course or lesson


30 Minute Apprenticeship in Business


30 Minute Apprenticeship in Construction


30 Minute Apprenticeship in Marketing


Strengths and Skills (Lesson)


Staying Positive (Lesson)


Finding your Cyber Security Career Path (Free online course)


Career Skills for Investment Banking and Finance (Free online course)


Creativity and Entrepreneurship (Free online course)


Resilience, the art of coping with disasters (Free online course)


Prepare for career success at Uni (Free online course)


Building your career in tomorrow’s workplace (Free online course)


How to start your career in games development (Free online course)


How to succeed in interviews (Free online course)



  1. Create a CV and/or write a personal statement


Free app for CV creation


CV Builder


CV writing guidance


Personal statement guide



  1. Browse Careers websites





Start Profile


Bridge U




National Careers Service


BBC Bitesize


My Career Springboard


Careers Box


Success at School


Gov: Apprenticeships


Gov: Careers helpline


All About Apprenticeships


All About School Leavers


Career Connect


Shaw Trust (SEND)


Careers Advice for Parents


Tees Valley Resources



Here are also some general free online learning sites!


MOOC (Online courses for anyone)


Minecraft (Educational games and activities)


TES (Resources & lesson plans)


Twinkl (Online lessons & activities – Use CVDTWINKLHELPS code for free access)


BBC Bitesize (Online lessons and revision)


Seneca (Online interactive lessons)


Future Learn (Free online courses)


TED (Video lessons)


Careers Activity Booklet

Reply to the Amazing Apprenticeships T Level resources survey

T Levels will soon be a qualification offer available to small areas of the country as the pilot runs out from September 2020. Over the next few academic years the Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges offering the qualification is planned to expand and the industry areas for young people to choose from will also grow.

t level rollout1

I’ve posted previously on what Careers practitioners, Teachers, parents et al. might be mindful of when discussing this route with their cohorts. T Levels will be demanding Level 3 qualifications with 3 A Levels worth of equivalent UCAS points awarded. The academic work will be of a Level 3 standard but young candidates will also need to be mature and proactive enough to secure and blossom in an extended industry placement at work throughout the two year course.

t level rollout2

The time demands of the qualification will mean that young people will struggle to fit part time work around a T Level so will need to find flexible ways to fund themselves if they cannot solely rely on support from home. With all of that being said, T Levels could be very exciting routes for both young people and employers. While the 80% work/20% training model of apprenticeships is not right for many young people the flipped T Level model of 80% training/20% work could allow young people tentative about the world of work to find their feet while employers, reticent about committing to a contract of employment for a young person with little work history, could be more favourable to using an industry placement as an important part of their talent pipeline to finding future employees. At my FE College, as we have grown our industry placements to prepare for the introduction of T Levels, we have certainly seen employers using a recruitment process for the placements and then using the placements as a talent identifier.

With this in mind all and any resources to help explain to wary young people and their parents what these new qualifications are and what they involve are to be welcomed. Some official DfE channels have started putting out marketing content on YouTube and through a dedicated site but these resources are not weighty enough to hang a group or 1:1 session on so please complete this Amazing Apprenticeships survey

so that they can better understand what resources would help teachers and advisers at schools and colleges help spread awareness.

Get completing!

Why is Apprenticeships IAG exempt from LMI?

A criticism leveled at CEIAG and the wider employability provision of schools has always been that Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) is not utilised to it’s fullest effect when designing curriculum and qualification pathways or to guide young people towards aspiring to career areas and gaining relevant skills for roles with staffing supply needs. Employers and their representatives regularly complain that too many young people aim for careers in over represented areas thus leaving corners of the labour market bereft of attention due to their less than appealing perception (care work) or their rigorous subject matter (STEM work). The Head of Ofsted is fond of a critical trope against Further Education Colleges for selfishly enrolling too many students on Performing Arts or Media courses (despite high employment of FE graduates in careers outside of their study area).

The expectation is that LMI should play a vital part in quality school and college CEIAG provision and those institutions should wield LMI to specifically steer young people (and their parents and guardians) towards career areas with a higher staffing volume demand and away from areas with lower demand. Guidance demands this of schools and colleges.

lmi 3

The wish for LMI to be utilised with these goals in mind can have many beneficial outcomes such as breaking down barriers and stereotypical thinking around certain careers and even, perhaps, spur on those who down want to work in highly sort after industries such as media or sports to strive harder to achieve their goals so the positives are there to be gained.

The problem with LMI though is that it is changeable. Data on pay, numbers of vacancies, location of vacancies, required entry qualification levels and many other data points all move with the times and this can cause headaches for policy makers and lay bare inconsistencies in approaches to CEIAG.

This is apparent in the way IAG on apprenticeships is treated. Apprenticeship starts are falling

and the numbers of young people starting them have been significantly affected.

apprenticeship starts

there are varied reasons for this but a substantive factor seems to be that, in an employer lead system, employers have taken the decision to fund older workers on higher level courses to the detriment of school leavers.

Following the commencement of the levy, there has also been a decisive shift from lower to higher levels of training. The proportion of training at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSEs) has fallen by around 15 percentage points, whereas training at Levels 4 to 7 (equivalent to the first year of university up to Masters level) has grown by 9 percentage points. These trends are even more pronounced for levy-paying employers. Higher-level apprenticeships are typically more expensive to deliver, which has obvious implications for the financial viability of the levy both now and in future.

In addition, the levy appears to have affected the age of those who start an apprenticeship. Since the levy began in 2017, there has been a drop of 5 percentage points in the proportion of young people starting an apprenticeship as older (and often more experienced) workers are attracting more of the funding. Over the last two years, 66 per cent of higher-level apprenticeships have been started by workers aged 25 and over. The latest data also shows that 46 per cent of ‘apprentices’ have been with their employer for at least six months before they started their training. In other words, the bulk of the levy is being spent on existing adult workers instead of supporting young people into the workplace.

This quickly leads to a branding problem as the actual reality of an apprenticeship is far removed from what the public perception of an apprenticeship is thus storing up disappointment and disillusionment when the reality becomes apparent.

Despite the low vacancy and hiring data, schools are still tasked with offering IAG to all students about apprenticeships. This is enforced to such a degree that they are written to to remind them of their obligations which, in this era of academisation, is a strong rebuff from a stand-offish DfE. This though is still not enough for those keen to promote apprenticeships. Advocates bemoan surveys that show 11% of 15-18 years olds are advised to pursue an apprenticeship

despite the fact that this more than double the percentage of school leavers progressing into apprenticeships. We no longer know how many young people are actually applying for apprenticeships through Find An Apprenticeship as the DfE no longer publish this data.

This leads me to ask why is the expectation of the use of LMI different here? Why are educators meant to put aside the LMI suggesting that apprenticeships are highly competitive, highly sought after and young people will find it hard to secure one against their more experienced competitors but then also declare loudly that LMI shows that media and arts careers are hard to get into? If we are tasked with using LMI to design curriculum and skills needs than surely we must take these signals from business that apprenticeships for young people are subservient to up-skilling older workers. If we are tasked with using LMI to inform career education and guidance and, in turn, young people and parental decision making, then we surely must be comfortable doing that for all routes and sectors even if it means injecting some reality into IAG on apprenticeships.

The best Careers advice video for young people I’ve seen

6 (!) years ago I posted about a video that I thought was an excellent attempt to distill some complex ideas about career planning down to some bite sized nuggets of advice for secondary school aged children. Even if that video was created by a careers service at a Canadian University, the advice is relevant for both young people and their parents perhaps choosing Key Stage 4 options or thinking about the subsequent pathways to come.

Now, a more recent and targeted resource has come from the Career Pilot site and the Careers & Enterprise Company

The animations and messages overlap many of the same themes as the Simon Fraser University effort and enables viewers, especially parents, to become more aware of the wider range of career enabling decisions and choices open to their offspring then they might initially presume. Importantly, the video could also calm nerves. Many parents, in my experience, structure career conversations with the prerequisite need for the destination to decided first; resources such as this video help spread understanding that it’s a perfectly valid method of career exploration for children is to start the journey without the end point already decided.

I would suggest that Key Stage 4 Options Evenings and other parent facing events would be perfect places for schools to play this video while the tips for young people

career pilot tips

are solid aims for any careers program to achieve.

National Careers Service Careers Guidance e-pack January 2020

ncs pack for schools and colleges

National Careers Service E-pack (002)

Click the link to download (8mb)

You probably will have already seen this but in case you haven’t, the latest e-pack from the National Careers Service has been sent out to schools and colleges. With both National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship week approaching, these sort of activity sheets that are easy to disseminate to colleagues can be very helpful. In the age of so many online CEIAG services some of the worksheets can seem a little quaint but not every classroom or tutor room will have a bank of laptops ready to go so there is still a need for these kind of resources.

Is it time to admit that LMI needs a rethink?

Every Careers practitioner understands the value of Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) and the worth of placing advice and guidance in the context of the reality of the world of work their clients will be engaging with. Be it the skill requirements of tomorrow, typical salary expectations for roles or the projected demand and fall in employment sectors, there is no debate on the importance of targeting LMI activities and information throughout an employability program or guidance interview. And, looking at the range of data that is considered LMI,


What is LMI?

you can see why.

This is reinforced by guidance

gatsby lmi

DfE School Careers Guidance

cdi lmi

CDI Employability Framework 2020

so it’s presence becomes a fundamental aspect of any CEIAG quality monitoring process.

LMI also has the backing of research both in graduate employability schemes

ise lmi

and in the wider theory context

theory lmi

and is a unit in Careers Adviser training.

Despite this though, there seems to be a lot of evidence that LMI, or rather how LMI is currently being used isn’t winning the hearts and minds of young people in a whole range of career related decisions.

When making decisions about Higher Education for example it seems that the views and opinions of parents are the most valued by young people

he progression

and LMI as presented can fail to remold the inner beliefs of young people that have already taken hold.

Over the past few years, we have spoken to hundreds of students about their next steps. They have consistently emphasised that their parents are their most trusted sources of information and often the “makers or breakers” for students weighing options. Students in Teesside, for example, explained that their sense that colleges or universities are “selling” HE courses was a major turn-off.

Many parents can hold sceptical views about HE, sometimes based on misconceptions. Our 2018 report on parental engagement with university outreach showed that although most, regardless of socio-economic group, want their children to go to university, they also have deep fears about debt, living costs and employment prospects.

These positive or negative views the young person holds towards certain educational pathways are subsets of the general views they have already soaked up regarding the value education can bring to their lives.

It also seems parents and siblings can have significant sway over young people’s decisions and views across the range of career related decisions.

1. Family members remain an important source of information

It is to be expected that family members are a key influence on young people’s educational decisions, with many pupils telling us they discuss their options with their parents and siblings. Some though were surprisingly aware of biases their parents may have.

There should be important lessons here for those who design LMI materials, those who deliver them and those who hope that LMI can assist with their future talent pipelines and, I would propose, lessons could be found in a controversial place.

Much LMI delivery is based around data and presenting statistics in memorable ways through display


or regional websites to improve the awareness of relevant data. Publishing these statistics in charts and graphs is following the Rationalistic use of LMI described by Staunton

lmi 1

I would argue though that, as the studies above show, their impact is brief and and insubstantial compared to pull of the family, tradition and community.

This was something that the marketing minds behind the Brexit campaign (in it’s many guises) gleefully and successfully embraced during and after the referendum campaign. Brexit is (still) an emotive issue but putting aside your reaction to the outcome, any observer would surely conclude that the messages of the Leave campaign resonated and hit home with greater impact than anything the Remain campaign produced.

The Remain campaign forlornly churned out numerous press messages based on sourced economic impact work with data and statistics hoping to sway voters by pointing out the economic risks of leaving the EU

Rather than accentuating the positive, Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to scare the electorate into voting their way, arguing that a vote for Leave would plunge the U.K. economy into a recession and cost the average household about sixty-two hundred dollars a year.

Almost all economists agree that the E.U. has been good to Britain. But the sixty-two-hundred-a-year figure was so large, and so specific, that many people didn’t believe it.

Without rehashing an issue that has divided families, generations and the country for three years now, my concern is not with the economic validity of those arguments but that they are weaker arguments to make than the more emotive campaign waged by the Leave side.

Remain also had problems with the message. Its task was inherently more difficult than that of Leave: the arguments for staying in the EU are complicated, economic, numerical, hard to explain and often dull, while the arguments for leaving are simple and emotional.

Posters using queues of refugees to criticize historic immigration levels under EU control or proclaiming that Turkey will soon join the EU are both clearly reprehensible in their message of fear and the highly debatable nature of their accuracy but these were the wilder extreme of the messages disseminated by the campaign to Leave.

Overall their brand and communications tapped into key narratives felt by, demonstrably, a majority of the country; that immigration was too high, that public services were not coping, that the old adage that working hard will bring success had been broken and that the very politicians elected to represent them were not listening to those communities. Again, it is not the validity of those grievances or how culpable the EU is for them that I want to raise, only that they landed with their target audience. One of the main players behind the campaign, Dominic Cummings outlined the reasons for this as

The closest approximation to the truth that we can get is that Leave won because of a combination of 1) three big, powerful forces with global impact: the immigration crisis, the financial crisis, and the euro crisis which created conditions in which the referendum could be competitive; 2) Vote Leave implemented some unrecognised simplicities in its operations that focused attention more effectively than the other side on a simple and psychologically compelling story, thus taking advantage of those three big forces; and 3) Cameron and Osborne operated with a flawed model of what constitutes effective political action and had bad judgement about key people

and it’s his point 2 that LMI campaigners can learn from. Find what resonates with your target audience and tell a story that appeals to that narrative. As we have seen from the studies above, these messages should not just land with young people but also their parents and carers as well if you want to appeal to culture and change decisions.

It feels remiss in a post such as this to not offer some suggestions to clarify how I think this could work for LMI messaging so here goes:

If you want to encourage more young people from disadvantaged or traditional working class backgrounds to apply for your historically privately educated or middle class industry? Those communities feel that there is an us/them approach in those employment spaces and remove those roles from their realistic routes because of this. So use role models at the center of your campaign materials but not, as many firms currently do, as inspirational beacons but as disruptors, shaking up the establishment. Paint them as people who had to fight hard to succeed but they did and no they need your help to battle for their space alongside the more privileged colleagues they work with every day. The pitch is not to follow in the role models footsteps but to join them in this space. This approach would build motivation about wanting to overcome barriers to industries that have been erected to keep people some different backgrounds out.

Trying to increase aspiration to work in your historically low wage sector such as the care industry? Use the lack of local, respected industries that many communities feel do not exist in their area. So forget about using LMI to increase awareness of the growing demand for workers in the sector and use LMI to show the accessibility of work in local communities and show how the work is valued and relied upon in those communities. This would alter the perception of care work to position it as a bedrock of the community with a higher status within that local community.

These are quick suggestions that would still be highly reliant on targeted advertising spending using digital marketing or behavioural science expertise to have any hope of achieving impact on decisions and culture but, I hope, they show how LMI could be framed using narrative to appeal to audiences that require more tailored approaches to reach them. This is something that FE College marketing departments are already utilising based on market research

We discovered we could split our prospects into five distinct groups, ranging from Career-Driven Chris, who has always known that he wanted to become a chef, to A-level Ali, who is very open about the fact that applying to college is only a back-up to A levels.

Both these students could apply to your college, but clearly both will need very different communications to maximise the chance that they will convert. Chris isn’t interested in “college vs school” type blogs or content; he wants to know the latest news from the hospitality team and the restaurants at which former students have gone on to work. Ali, on the other hand, needs to be convinced that a vocational option is a viable alternative to A levels.

Weaving LMI into these more tailored messages aid the narrative the institution wants to tell. For the Career minded applicant, they want to hear of the specific local employers hiring graduates directly from the College catering course while for the back-up applicant, the general wage premiums from a range FE courses would be useful data to include in the messaging sent to them.

Returning to the approaches to LMI proposed by Tom Staunton, these proposed uses of LMI are part of the Radical approach

lmi 2

for they aim to change the status quo by highlighting certain data or choosing to share certain data points over others. This is a much less prosaic use of LMI than the Rationalistic which comes with the danger of hyperbole but, as the Brexit campaign shows, it is this kind of messaging that can elicit stronger and more lasting reactions and decision change from audiences.