Month: June 2014

Banned: “Preparing young people for jobs that don’t yet exist”

Taking a lead from the recent AGCAS Phoenix magazine with the theme “Careers concepts which should be banned” (and by that I mean stealing the idea) I would like to put forward a concept, or more specifically a phrase, that I contend should be forever banned from a politician’s vocabulary when speaking about careers work in Secondary schools…

……unless, that is,  they actually start using it in the way it should be used.

The “jobs that don’t yet exist” phrase is usually deployed by politicians in their speeches when they attempt to confront the numerous issues identified by the numerous reports regarding the state of school age Careers work and to show they can understand the bigger picture. It conjures forth job titles from the space age such as Hydrogen Station Manager and Avatar security consultant that hold the promise of exciting new careers awaiting (somehow) prepared youngsters. A phrase that is designed to highlight their keen economic mind and but, in reality, ends up saying absolutely nothing.

A recent example appeared in Tristram Hunt’s speech at a Policy Exchange event but Micheal Gove has also been happy to jump on the “future jobs” bandwagon.

How can we prepare young people for jobs that don’t yet exist in industries that haven’t yet been invented in a world-changing faster than any of us can predict?

During Hunt’s speech I tweeted:

which *I think* people took the wrong way, which is why I’m writing this post; most uses of the “preparing young people for jobs that don’t yet exist” phrase bandwagon are utterly empty cul-de-sacs of educational discourse that our elected leaders hide in when they want to sound interesting. Of course, political speeches are often the art of making complicated civil service structural reform and legislation into headline grabbing generalisations but those of us at the coal face would still like to cling to the slim hope that this can be achieved with a smidgen of substance.

This doesn’t do that. It merely states the obvious, that schools have never known the future jobs their alumni would graduate to.

That is that schools and whatever wider careers framework they lead to have already been preparing young people for jobs that didn’t exist yet since, well, the beginning of schools and education.

Whatever formal schooling Tony Janus received in Washington DC at the turn of the 20th century it prepared him well enough to become the world’s first commercial airline pilot.

I doubt that Jonathon Fletcher’s school experience in Scarborough included learning about the possibilities of web-based indexing systems but that didn’t stop him writing Jumpstation in 1993, the first search engine.

When Adam Kontras started to document his move to Los Angeles to ‘make it’ in show-business with online vlogs, I doubt very much that his school experience covered becoming the first vlogger in an industry that now earns beauty vloggers up to £20,000 a month.

These are 3 examples from millions. Progress happens on the foundations laid by education and innovation.

Another problem with predicting the “jobs of the future” soothsayers trick is that those predictions are only based on a few criteria such as expected progress in affordable technology. Only a few years ago large numbers of people retrained to become Domestic Energy Assessors as the Government was due to introduce a requirement to gain an energy assessment as part of the planned Home Information Pack (HIP). Until, that was, when the  HIP was scrapped and, for a period, all of those newly qualified Assessors became suddenly unnecessary. An entire career pathway hung in the balance not due to advancements in technology or the changing needs of the market but on the stroke of a bureaucrats pen.

The CEIAG sector needs our politicians to be more lucid and eloquent when speaking about preparing the next generation for their career pathways. We need them to be able to summarise the skills and attributes that business leaders are saying will be needed to navigate the future labour market. Attributes to succeed such as:

and those detailed in reports such as Tomorrow’s Growth from the CBI.

This “future jobs” nonsense needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history before anymore of this ‘future’ happens.

Stop bashing the young and try giving them work experience

Nothing else to add other than please read this

Flip Chart Fairy Tales

Everybody knows that young people lack the basic skills needed in the workplace. It’s not just a problem with skills. They have bad attitudes too. These reports appear every few months, gleefully covered by the newspapers and providing soundbites for grandstanding MPs. It’s no wonder, then that youth unemployment is so high. Surely, no employer in their right mind would want to recruit such people.

I have long been sceptical about all this, though, because I first heard it when I was one of the people being complained about. Employers have been banging on about the poor skills and bad attitudes of young people since the 1980s, at least.

Yesterday’s report from the UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES) provides some useful background to the debate. It found that, while the UK’s unemployment rate is below average when compared with other EU countries, relative to our adult unemployment rate, it is high.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 13.42.12

In other words, countries like Greece and…

View original post 746 more words

On white working class students and aspiration

Following last week’s Education Select Committee report into the under achievement of white working class children, Friday’s Telegraph editorial placed the majority of the blame on one factor, a “dearth of ambition.”

Despite the actual report stating:

50. One of the more frequently discussed home factors was the role of aspirations, but
there was disagreement on whether white working class children had low aspirations and
whether this caused or explained low achievement.


the Joseph Rowntree Foundation felt that low aspirations were not a key
cause of lower attainment among white British children from low-income backgrounds,
and suggested that aspirations were actually very high across all social groups.


Professor Stephen Gorard (Professor
of Education and Public Policy, Durham University) described attitudes and aspirations as
“a red herring”

which ties very closely into “Understanding Employer Engagement in Education Ed by Mann, Stanley & Archer, Chapter 7 Local Labour Markets; What effects Do they have on the aspirations of young people?” by Ralf St Clair, Keith Kintrea & Muir Houston.

The conclusion of the chapter states:



The Observer seems to have grasped this and offered a more nuanced conclusion

But one worrying trend raised by several respondents to the inquiry was the impact of parents’ lack of faith in the education system. This is not parents lacking aspiration for their children. This is scepticism that the school system actually offers what their children need. It’s a case of: “The school system hasn’t helped me, why would it help my kids?”

The chapter from St Clair, Kintrea and Houston goes onto say;

Given the importance of families in shaping aspirations – and the lack of knowledge among many families about routes to particular occupations – supporting aspirations also mean working with parents more closely, especially where parents face disadvantages themselves.

From this we might conclude that the first battle to embed the social, cultural and experiential capital needed by lower socio-economic groups to achieve the results and career outcomes for their children they aspire to, will be to persuade parents that they need that capital to begin with.

A comprehensive snapshot of the current #CEIAG landscape

Is this FE week supplement from May

Click to access where-is-careers-advise-going.pdf

(warning: that’s a 6MB PDF)

Containing contributions from schools, colleges, professional bodies and employers, it covers a wide range of viewpoints from stakeholders on the current policy position for CEIAG in schools and gives some frank opinions on the gaps in the system and the challenges facing holding back improvement.

If you’re pushing for extra support from line managers for your own CEIAG program in school or starting to plan for the new academic year, this might be a worthwhile read for your Senior Leadership team over the forthcoming summer break.

Everyone says Year 10 work experience has value

I’ve posted before on my perceptions of the value of Year 10 work experience to students and schools but only backed it up with some anecdotal evidence of my own experiences. So, in the week before almost 190 of our own students go out to their placements, it was reassuring to read about some actual data that puts forward the case for the positive impact and worth work experience at this age can have. The data comes from a recent arrival into my reading pile, “Understanding Employer Engagement in Education” Edited by Anthony Mann, Julian Stanley and Louise Archer, specifically Chapter 2: “A theoretical framework for employer engagement” and takes the form of the results of attitudinal surveys.   The chapter discusses how the range of employer engagement with school age young people can have an impact on the future life paths of those involved and contributes to the growth of the human, social and cultural capital that are factors in successful education to career transitions and beyond. Historically, a large proportion of these engagement experiences will have been work experience placements and the chapter leaves you with no doubt just how worthwhile large majorities of all stakeholders consider this engagement to be. The data:

  • A survey of 203 UK employers who offered work experience found that 82% had offered paid work to someone who had previously been on a placement
  • A 2008 survey of over 15,000 British teenagers found that 87% Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the statement, “As a result of my work experience I have developed some new skills that employers value.”
  • The 2008 survey also reported that 90% responded that they Strongly Agreed or Agreed with the statement, “I understand better why I have to do well at school”
  • A 2012 National Foundation for Education Research survey of over 700 teachers found that two-thirds agreed that young people returned from work experience better motivated to do well at school

Stanley and Mann also tease the possibility that, now the entitlement to universal work experience for 14-16 year olds has ended, it will be easier to test the actual impacts on student behaviour and outcomes rather than just collect stakeholder’s perceptions of impact. I would imagine the educational charities and foundations behind the employer engaged UTC and Studio School movement would be extremely interested in such data being crunched.

At a time when, frankly, all areas of school expenditure are under pressure from Headteachers becoming nervous about budgets this sort of data is useful to know. It can add emotive weight to decisions of what (careers) work in schools should continue to receive the financial backing necessary to put on provision that can add real value to a youngsters educational experience. Everyone believes that work experience does, so let’s fight for it.

Should careers advisers tell young people “the truth?”

The obvious answer is “yes, always” right?

Without hesitation and by compulsion we should adhere stoically to the truth when offering guidance to clients. Perhaps delivered with compassion and understanding but ultimately the truth should always be aired. Whether we are utilising statistics and figures to illuminate the benefits or downsides of certain routes and destinations or to explain the expert guesses at the future labour market landscape awaiting our clients, the onus is on the professional capability of the adviser to be prepared and competent enough to have a range of sources on which to draw from that reflect the “truth.” The importance of this skill is considered such a key element of the role it is given it’s own Unit in the Level 6 Career Guidance Diploma.

Sometimes, the actual reality of what statistics show is happening can be lost in our own personal experiences or subjective views as Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, discovered when confronting a room full of careers advisers convinced that the introduction of University fees was discouraging students from lower-income backgrounds to apply to H.E despite no current data to support this. Perhaps those advisers had personal, anecdotal stories which had blinded them to the wider world view or perhaps the data had just failed to get through the avalanche of numbers, figures and headlines that advisers try to keep up to date with about future labour market trends. The media (and those PR folk whose sole job it is to shout purely about their corner of the education world) don’t make this part of the job easy as the recent spate of headlines proclaimed that apprentices were now earning more than graduates shows.

Graduates are more likely to find themselves in low-paid jobs and are earning less than people who decide to do an apprenticeship instead of going to University, figures from the Office for National Statistics show

Which is all striking enough to get a Careers Adviser to take notice and feed into their messages of guidance. But was it the whole truth? A graph of recent ONS data shines a very different light on those claims.

Which clearly shows that, on average, graduates still outperform all other qualification routes on earnings. Some apprentices may be earning more than some graduates but HE leavers “on average” are still earning more over the course of their working life. When speaking to a confused 15-year-old about comparing the benefits of their possible future routes, which source would you use? Which one is closer to the “truth?”

Questions around subjectivity can significantly impact and influence the message conveyed by individual guidance givers. Despite our own professional best intentions, our own media intake, reading and decisions will drastically alter the range of data and the perception of that data we use with clients even before we interweave the personal stories and experiences of both ourselves and our client into the mix. The impact of influences on the truth we convey and omit can be drastic.

Let’s invent a client, a 15-year-old female student called Laura, studying at a regular English secondary school. Let’s imagine she’s bright and able to do well in her subjects with hard work. She’ll need to be, Laura is from a home eligible for Free School Meals so is 26.5% less likely to achieve A*-Cs in her Maths and English GCSEs than her classmates who do not receive FSM. If the school Laura attended was in Grimsby or Bradford, this hard work would be needed to insulate her from becoming the quarter of her age group who will become NEET upon leaving school. Let’s say Laura is on course to negotiate these initial hurdles and has expressed an interest in studying at the local Sixth Form College, which has navigated the pressures on their funding to still offer the STEM courses Laura is interested in. The closer she gets to her GCSE exams, it becomes clear that Laura may be on target for some excellent results which, considering her Afro-Caribbean heritage, means she would be outperforming her peers who remain the lowest performing ethnic group in British schools (para 1.3) . Teachers start talking to her about the differences in University options and light a fire in her to investigate the exclusive world of the Russell Group. Her fears about the average £44,000 of debt her studies will leave her paying into her 50s are allayed (much to Nick Hillman’s cheer) with the tantalising promise of  bursaries to help her despite that just a third of students receive £1400 a year. Achieve the outstanding grades required and you’ll have a great chance, she is told, despite the truth that her heritage and her state school education make it much less likely she would receive an offer compared to other students with the same grades.

Let us say Laura battles through to graduate with a valued STEM career to take one of the 13% of STEM roles currently held by women then to find that her pay is well below her male colleagues

and could be even more greatly affected by her decision to stay near her family home in the north of England.

If Laura was shown this version or each chunk of this version of the “truth” at the start of her journey, at which point would the enormity of the challenge laid out in front of her weigh her down and halt her efforts? At which point would the “truth” stop being beneficial and become a hindrance and a drag on aspiration? As Tristam Hooley comments on the  Nick Hillman piece

Careers advice, like politics, is the art of the possible. In fact much of the rationale for the existing of career guidance as part of public policy is the fact that helps individuals to make their way through sub-optimally organised systems.

so at which point should the full extent of just how “sub-optimal” the system is be shown? At which point does the “possible” become narrowed to reflect the reality rather than expanded to reflect the ambition? I’ve blogged before on framing Labour Market Statistics not as a dissuading element but as a motivator to encourage students to push on and achieve their dreams but Nick’s piece made me consider a deeper truth in my own practice in adhering to the statistics. Through omission and selection, I do not always “tell the truth.” I choose which facts and statistics to unveil to students that I think will motive and encourage them at opportune and transitional points and through that, hope to play a small role in the process as they move forward to see their version of the “truth” themselves.