This year’s National Careers week promises to be a fantastic celebration of guidance work and an opportunity for young people up and down the country to experience some wonderful career related events. From the central organisers there will be much promotion of a wide range of career areas during the themed days and a wealth of freely available resources that will help any CEIAG practitioner. From CEIAG and youth engagement folk in businesses, schools and colleges there will be the last-minute stresses of best laid plans clicking into gear as displays go up, visitors sign into reception, coaches arrive at the school gates and children are corralled into rooms not normally on their timetable.
The coverage gained by these events will help spread an important message among all levels and stages of educational and business communities; that CEIAG is a vital tool in building employable, confident, aspirational young learners better prepared to take their next steps in learning, work and training. The week will be spectacular, the hard work of the ambassadors will ensure that, but for CEIAG work in schools to prosper, the real test of the impact of NCW2015 will be in the weeks and months beyond the 2nd -6th March. The real reward will be all that happens beyond those five days of loud PR noise. For many CEIAG practitioners in schools or even like-minded teaching staff, the traction offered by NCW2015 will be a godsend. A real opportunity for their cash strapped and time constrained Senior Leaders to actually see the visceral enjoyment and positive feedback from young people participating in well run and well-managed career events. A starting point for further work, for building a growing careers program that stretches its web across the curriculum of the school and that is not just seen as an “add on” or something that is constrained to one week on the academic calendar.
The contradiction at the heart of National Careers Week is that, it exists because of the very struggle to mainstream CEIAG in schools and colleges. In my presentation at David Andrews’ conference I included a slide referencing the drip, drip versus drop methods of careers program delivery and how, it is the wider conditions of support and ethos in a school that will dictate the path of least resistance to a practitioner organising events. Either in small nuggets throughout the academic year or in large drops of off timetable days or whole school events. The very highlighting of “Careers” in a specific week shows how marginalised it can be. Of course, many causes and topics utilise the idea of a promotional period of time to raise awareness and hope to effect a snowballing of change (March will also squeeze in National Apprenticeship week and British Science week) but this can have downsides as well as positives.
Now, of course (I feel silly even having to type this exemplification but, this is the internet so…) I’m not comparing the cause of embedding CEIAG in schools with the struggle of an entire race against centuries of racist oppression but…there’s something in the wider message of Mr Freeman there about taking the PR short-cut. If we want great CEIAG to be the norm, then lets stop making it the unusual. But that isn’t the job of the folk behind NCW2015. Given the current state of the sector, they’ve given us the push, the ignition key, the job of school leaders and CEIAG practitioners is to use that momentum and run with it beyond that one week and make every week we can in school into a “Careers week.”