Month: March 2013

The “I have a dream” conversation

Cascaid blogged earlier on an all too familiar issue for those of us that provide guidance services to school age children.

So how can teachers and advisers tackle unrealistic career ideas, especially where it may be affecting a young person’s achievement, e.g., their effort in certain subjects suffers because they feel that they won’t need it in their future career?

The line of questioning I take on this, when speaking to students one to one about their Post 16 routes who are interested in creative or talent based routes, is to get them to show me their online presence.

So, for example, if a student expresses their wish to become a photographer, I’ll ask to see their flickr channel.

For students who dream of being musicians, ask them to show you their soundcloud or their bandcamp page.

For writers, ask to see their wordpress blog.

For film makers, say you would like to check out their vimeo channel. The same for actors or dancers. Where are their show reels?

In the vast majority of cases, they won’t have one, so I’ll do a quick search and show them the flicker channel of someone who is a talented photographer or the vimeo channel of a short film maker.

This achieves two things. Firstly, it shows them the level of technical proficiency out there, it opens their eyes to the level of competition and secondly, it leads you into a conversation about how are they promoting themselves and their work and if they’re not doing anything to promote themselves then how far do they realistically expect to go. Stop saying you want to be a musician and start being one. Challenge them to discuss when the “I want to be…” turn into “I am….”

Sometimes examples of young success stories can motivate as well, those who through embracing the internet to showcase their talents make early headway. A great example is the photographer Olivia Bee whose Flickr channel was noticed by advertising agencies who then offered her work. She was fifteen.

Or Jake Bugg. Or Nick D’Aloisio .

(Who? You ask)

This kid

There are plenty of examples. Some might inspire, but some might inject the shot of realism needed in the plan and force the conversation to back up plans or alternatives.

A valid criticism of this approach though, would be that this conversation comes too soon for many and they should be concentrating on passing exams and other fun teenage stuff rather than realistically furthering their career aspirations. And there’s a truth to that.  But I think the value in having this conversation comes from opening their eyes to bar to be reached if they want to achieve those embryonic goals. And sometimes, just once in while, a student will answer the initial question with a “Sure.”

“Yes,” they’ll say, “here’s my band’s Youtube channel” or “here’s my Trigger Street Labs profile.”

And you will be surprised by suddenly being presented with the most wonderful short film or cover of a song and, by the end of the session, you’ll be convinced that, maybe, just maybe, they have a chance of their dream.

Surprise! Nomis isn’t bookmarked by 13 year olds

This morning a survey report from Education & Employers has been released called “Nothing in common: The career aspirations of young Britons mapped against projected labour market demand.”

Click to access nothing_in_common_final.pdf

The news coverage of the report concludes that there is, “a “massive mismatch” between young people’s career expectations and the reality of the jobs available.”

“Career expectations” is a rather grand term when you compare this with what the children were actually asked.

“Young people participating in the survey were provided with a list of 69 occupations across a multitude of UK industrial sectors and instructed in the context of a survey exploring their career choices to “please click on your favourite three jobs from the list below”

“Your favourite three jobs” is an interesting choice of phrase to use here – I would put forward that it’s a very different question to a teenager to “what job do you expect to be doing in 15 years time” and, subsequently, you would get very different results.

The scope of the survey is impressive with almost 11,000 young people asked but the actual results will shock no one that actually works with young people.

Big surprise – they want to do exciting and enticing things with their lives

A few months back a news story about apprenticeships included an owner of a chain of old people’s homes bemoaning the lack of applicants for their apprenticeship scheme. Turns out it’s difficult to entice and tempt young people to be enthusiastic about applying for a job that involves wiping old people’s backsides for a fair few years. Who knew?

Big surprise – the media and branding influences they consume will have a greater influence over the positive connotations they assign to job roles and work areas then little old me (and all of the much better versions of me) can combat

The X factor contains many powerful messages. Magazines and newspapers are full to the absolute brim with interviews not with CERN scientists but some random who once walked across the background in TOWIE or dated a footballer and then stole the nation’s heart every Saturday night on Celebrities Skating on Ice in Skimpy Tops. This is a strong tide to fight against. They are given a glimpse into exciting and tantalising lives every day but then told that these exciting lives are not for them and, really, they should think about a career in the hotel industry. This is not to say that “the establishment” can’t fight back against this, witness the rise in interest in engineering as a career route over the last 12-18 months as the rhetoric from the Government has focused on this area.

Big surprise – they’re unsure of jobs they don’t know much about or that have mundane connotations.

I’ve blogged before about my take on why young people latch onto certain job titles as ones they aspire to here:

and the list of most popular options at ages 13-14 in the survey fits in with this

1. Actor/Actress

2. Lawyer

3. Police

4. Doctor

5. Sportswoman/man

6. Teacher

7. Chef

8. Accountant

9. Uniformed Services

10. Musician

When presented with a list of options, young people will revert to safe choices, job roles they are fairly confident they have a clear idea of what that job is either because they see it everyday (teachers, doctors) or see it enacted through their media input (lawyers, police). The clear answer to this is to make more young people confident in more job types at this age. Businesses of all types – get into your local schools!

Finally, the unspoken message of this report is that education should only be preparing a workforce ready to fit into the roles needed by industry. An Ofsted report last week encouraged FE Colleges to make the most of new freedoms and tailor their course offers to reflect the needs of the local labour market. It seems sensible to prepare post 16 learners for the needs of local industry but there is a big different to 13 year olds who have not yet started their GCSE courses. They are still children. Don’t put them on the treadmill to ‘suitable’ employment just yet. For a while yet at least, let them sing and dance and act and dream.

Apprenticeships: A point of view from a Careers Adviser in school


First up; some data.

The most recent year that we have complete data for destinations in Luton is 2011 leavers.

In November of 2011, 12 out of 2546 school leavers in Luton were in an Apprenticeship route. My school had supplied 5 of those. By the Spring of 2012 when another check had been completed the total number had jumped to 37, with 7 coming from Stopsley High.

If we go back to students who left High school in 2008, in Spring 2012 115 were in Apprenticeships. The figures are similar for 2009 leavers.

There are two strands from these figures that I blog about here:

Our Apprenticeship education and IAG programme in school:

Our Careers Education input about Apprenticeships starts in Year 10 with lessons like this

which are generic lessons designed to get students talking about the route and more comfortable with the mix of learning and earning involved.

Since using social media to connect to organisations, I’ve realised there are lots of online resources out there to help so the onus is now on schools to organise these into what they need and then find curriculum time to deliver to students.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone of our  KS4 students will be able to tell you all of the ins and outs of an apprenticeship framework but we try and get the core message across to classes at first and then individually later on.

A massive part of the disconnect with young people and Apprenticeships is the lack of knowledge about them in the general teaching community. We use a wide range of teachers to deliver our Careers education programme so the skills base will be variable and many teachers would be finding out about the route as they deliver the session. There are positives to this as you are automatically spreading the knowledge amongst staff but there is an onus on the Careers lead in schools to help prepare staff to deliver these types of lessons.

Into Year 11:

By this time, face to face IAG sessions are taking place and the students who are interested in the idea of an Apprenticeship are beginning to be known.

We have a white board in our room on which we update possible Apprenticeship route students and their areas of interest and so the contact with home can begin.

We have a great contact at Bedford College who comes in to lead a session in which the students sign up to the NAS site and begin their plan of action of which companies to approach with calls, letters and C.Vs. Our Year 11 Careers fair is also full of apprenticeship providers and employers raising the profile of the route with students. Parents are given a dedicated Apprenticeship presentation at Year 11 revision evening.

As a Careers team, our responsibility is then to be on the look out for every possible opportunity. To keep checking websites, to look on twitter and be on every mailing list we can to be ahead of the game when large scale companies announce their Apprenticeship schemes and to be clued into local links when smaller businesses might have an opportunity.

It’s fair to say though, even with this work, a large amount of possible Apprenticeships come to us through contacts students and their families have made, sometimes on work experience in Year 10, sometimes just through networks of friends.

From this point on it’s a matter of chase, chase, chase. Chasing students to see what contacts they’re making in their own time, chasing parents to pass on online application links and chasing students again to make sure they have called back that plasterer who said it might be taking someone on.

And the chase continues right to the summer break and even beyond. Another aspect which puts youngsters off Apprenticeships is the uncertainty. With a College application it’s all done by Easter, you know what course you would do, what grades you would need and exactly where you’ll be going come September. Chasing an Apprenticeship means putting yourself out there, open for rejection (something teenagers aren’t good at) and with a greater possibility that you won’t get what you want while the majority of your peers have their future seemingly all sorted.

Not that this is a bad thing. Sometimes the path between school and College/Sixth Form can be all too smooth for students and the idea of actually applying for something that they might not get can scare them away from even participating. If we really are committed to training young people for the world of work then surely part of that is applying for jobs and not getting them which happens lots with Apprenticeships at 16.

A bit about those Luton statistics:

It’s not a lot at all is it? 12 out of 1246.

All the headlines are that the total numbers of Apprenticeships are rising but this isn’t the case for starts for under 19s

and that is reflected in the Luton statistics above.

The Government know this is an issue which is why they have floated the idea of ‘Traineeships” as a king of pre Apprenticeship filler

but more learning, no work can’t be the whole answer. I believe there is a need for dedicated school leaver apprenticeship routes at 16, and lots of them. Whatever National Apprenticeship Week can do to increase opportunities will be fantastic because we’ve got about 25 students this year who have expressed an interest in an Apprenticeship. Because Sixth Form feels too much like school to them, because they feel pressure at home to start earning money or because we’ve promoted a great route to them, that’s the path they would prefer and next year, I’m sure that number will rise.

Now, not many of them will get one straight out of school, some will continue applying and will find a placement while at College and some will have given up long before then. But it would be great if more than 5 had an Apprenticeship sorted by November and that’s what now needs to catch up. The demand is there, I can’t promise you the skills are consistent across all those potential applicants but we’re spreading the word and the young people are coming.

What can the National Careers Service do to help me?

As part of the recent Education Select Committee report into just what the flip has happened with school’s careers services since September there was a lot of talk of a new or adjusted role for the National Careers Service.

Paragraph 74 raises the suggestion that the NCS should become a broker between groups of schools and those offering IAG services to help ensure that schools are spending their budgets wisely and getting a quality service for their cash.

As I blogged about here:

that’s all fine and good and will help many schools but, those have reacted with speed and efficiency to the new duty will not require this support. There is, though, an interesting push behind that idea; that the NCS could be doing more to help schools floundering to do the best for their students regarding impartial IAG but without the time or expertise to do so. So what can the NCS do to assist as many schools as possible, within the realms of their constrained budget. What would I be looking for from them?

1) Their current online offer is a strange beast from a school’s point of view. On the positive side, the website has some job profiles which we can use with children but that’s about it.

The skills tests feel very basic in their presentation compared to the comparable parts of Fast Tomato or Prefino. The user interface looks like a an old maths GCSE paper has been scanned in and a multiple choice box tacked on down the side and the small number of tests with students I done haven’t gone well.

The best part of the site, or at least the part I regularly use with students, especially students searching for apprenticeships, is the online CV builder. It’s clearly laid out and the majority of students can work their way through the different sections under their own steam and it produces a professional looking document.

This is massively outweighed by the negatives though. Students under 16 (i.e all of them) can’t sign up for a Life long learning account so nothing can be saved and everything has to be done in one session.

In fact this one positive is massively hobbled by a 30 minute time out clause on that part of the site which means that students will input their details, text their mum because they’ve forgotten the address of their work experience, look up their predicted grades in their planner only for the site to log them out automatically after half an hour. It makes a good online resource pretty much impossible to use with students.

To help schools, their skills test tools should be made much more student friendly and accessible without the need to sign up for a Life long learning account.

2) This week saw the launch of an exciting scheme from Barclays called LifeSkills

which holds much promise. Included in the resources for schools that sign up are a number of clearly laid out, easy to understand lesson plans for teachers to deliver around personal presentation and branding, interview techniques etc. I’ll definitely be incorporating parts of them into some lesson plans I’ve already got.

This is extremely positive and welcomed educational input from an employer but why the NCS aren’t already covering this part of the scheme? Hosting a few well written PDF’s with lesson ideas that are as clearly laid out as the Barclay’s examples shouldn’t be beyond reason. From a school’s point of view the sheer amount of online careers resources is blinding. It takes time and networks to spread good word of mouth about sites or resources for a school to start using a site as a regular part of it’s careers education offer. Why doesn’t the NCS become the sign poster of excellence in free online careers resources?

The NCS should have an online section with careers lessons for a basic careers education program that schools could adapt to suit their own needs and situations.

So there are two, both online, both inexpensive in the scheme of things, activities that the NCS could do to assist schools in making solid steps towards a comprehensive careers program. Involving themselves in this sort of work would also have greater benefits in the future as the young people become aware of their brand and so would be much more likely to utilise their services if they needed to throughout their future career.