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Why a focus on careers education is more important than ever

By Paul Matthias, National Director of Hays Education

The tumultuousness of the last two years has given us many opportunities to rethink established practices and ways of doing things – just one of which is the role of education, and the part it must play in building a future that is both progressive and sustainable. 

The pandemic has had a significantly detrimental impact on the education of young people around the world, and severely depleted work experience opportunities for students. A skills-supply mismatch is also being magnified by the rapid pace of innovation, and as technology continues to permeate an increasing number of roles, there is a widespread need to ensure that those entering the employment market are equipped – as much as possible – with the skills needed to tackle talent shortages.

How Hays Inspire can help

In response, we are working in partnership with schools and clients to create Hays Inspire, a free-of-charge learning programme that will provide pupils with an informative and realistic insight into possible career pathways, with advice from leading employers regarding the skills needed to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.

The lesson plans – consisting of comprehensive guidance notes, video content and student worksheets – are targeted at year groups 6, 9 and 10/11, helping schools to achieve the Gatsby Benchmarks and deliver effective, unbiased information to pupils on their post-16 opportunities. We hope that by harnessing the potential of the collaborative role educators and organisations can play in providing career insights for future generations, students will be armed with the knowledge they need to make informed choices, avail themselves of opportunities and realise their future ambitions.  

So what can educators do to foster inspiration amongst students regarding the world of work, and how can careers education be used to empower positive change?

1. Contextualise the work students do

Students are much more likely to engage with teaching if it’s given some wider contextual meaning, and drawing on links between what they are learning and possible routes into the world of work is not only motivating, but will help them understand how theoretical concepts can be applied to practical, real-world contexts.

Perceiving the relevance of their subject of study both to their own lives and the lives of others is also likely to improve engagement, whilst insight into how learning can provide a route into a particular career will also help learners to understand how they can overcome perceived barriers, and see a clear path or multiple paths ahead to their chosen destination.

2. Ask students about their aspirations

Needless to say, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not the right fit when it comes to career guidance, and the aspirations and dreams of all students will be different. Approaching the subject individually with learners should take the form of open questioning, and could include questions such as:

  • What do you feel you’re good at, and what do you enjoy?
  • Have you thought about what job you’d like to do in the future?
  • Would you like to find out more about your intended career?

Providing guidance, and helping students make connections between what they enjoy and what they’re good at is best done on a ‘one-to-one’ basis, if only to spark reflection, initially, and get them thinking about the topic.

3. Emphasise different paths

To make careers education as inclusive as possible, and help learners envision themselves in a job, you should make it clear that there is not always one route or pathway to the career they aspire to. It’s important that students don’t feel alienated by conventional routes to work, and there are a multitude of non-academic possibilities, such as vocational courses, apprenticeships and internships, that they can take.

4. Soft skills are key

The knowledge and capabilities we develop throughout our time in early years education are not necessarily those that will bring us career success. Much of the time, our education helps us to develop the competencies needed to perform certain tasks, such as mathematics or foreign languages. While these are extremely valuable, the most prevalent gaps often lie in the development of ‘soft skills’, such as critical thinking and problem solving.

Arguably, these skills are more difficult to teach as they don’t conform to a standardised ‘grading’ system. But they are highly beneficial to those starting out in their careers, and should be cultivated and encouraged wherever possible amongst learners.

5. Break it down

Try to incorporate careers education into the curriculum wherever you can, even if it’s for ten minute ‘bitesize’ sessions. Hays Inspire was created specifically to be easily adapted to a range of timeframes and audiences, whether for a short video watch for Year 6, or a 45 minute lesson, including worksheets and plenaries for Year 11.

To get started with Hays Inspire and begin raising aspirations and inspiring future careers, just reach out to your local consultant.

About this author

Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.

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