Children call for more hands-on careers guidance in new AoC research

27 May 2014

School children want drastic changes made to the way in which they receive careers advice, according to new research conducted by the Association of Colleges (AoC) in partnership with The Skills Show. 

Increased involvement with employers, linking information and experience, is seen as key by those questioned for the project if careers advice is to be effective and useful.

According to those questioned, young people want access to more detailed careers guidance, including information about what jobs actually involve, as well as Have A Go experiences to provide an insight into the skills required for a wide range of careers.

The research – the second stage of the project – aims to identify and promote best practice around careers guidance and place colleges at the heart of career hubs, working alongside employers, schools, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Jobcentre Plus and local councils.

The report, Careers Guidance: Guaranteed, produced by growth consultancy FreshMinds, identifies four strands necessary for best practice in careers guidance:

  • Relevant local information, provided face-to-face and online, is key to helping young people make good decisions about their future options
  • Exposure to the world of work through Have A Go sessions, like those provided by The Skills Show and The Skills Show Experience, or ‘day in the life’ videos demonstrating what a job involves to improve understanding and motivation
  • Longer-term work experience to help young people prepare themselves for the workplace
  • More direction and structure to careers guidance sessions

While it is not anticipated that all of the approaches could be included in a single careers advice session, the respondents to the research believe that as many of the approaches as possible should be incorporated into the advice given throughout a child’s education.

Michele Sutton, AoC President, said: “Young people are calling for a more experiential model of careers guidance and want more work experience and Have A Go sessions which help them get a better grasp of what roles in, say, engineering or IT really involve.

“They’re also telling us that they need more practical guidance about how to go about researching jobs they’re interested in, and the steps they need to take. Children turn to their parents and teachers in the first instance and it’s our responsibility as adults to become better informed about the local jobs market to be able to offer more relevant, realistic and timely advice.”

“We believe that experiential activities backed up with proper advice are the best combination with which to communicate careers opportunities to young people,” said Ross Maloney, Chief Executive of Find a Future, the organisation that delivers The Skills Show and The Skills Show Experience.

“This new research reinforces that understanding. ‘Learning by doing’ is a concept that we are very much committed to: it has more impact than traditional classroom learning methods and, through our range of products, we welcome the opportunity to provide more hands-on opportunities to help young people discover what they enjoy and what they are good at. 

“Colleges, other learning providers and, importantly, employers are ideally placed to involve and engage with young people at a local level to assist them on their journey into the world of work. As we have seen with our ongoing nationwide programme of Skills Show Experience events, which gives employers direct access to the diversity of talent they need, the impact that this type of activity can have is significant.

“Not only do young people find their motivation and passion for the world of work through hands-on experiences, but employers can identify and nurture the future talent which will enable their businesses to flourish and our nation to prosper.”

And these aspirations were echoed by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock in a recent interview (with FE Week): “More and more employers are getting involved (with the provision of careers advice) and a multitude of inspiring organisations like Careers Academies and Speakers for Schools are being set up. …I think this will result in a big culture change – which I believe will lead to better outcomes for young people.”

The research project aimed to examine children’s career aspirations, who influences their decisions and the careers advice they receive at different key stages of their education. This stage of the project involved parents, children and careers advisers at workshops in London, Middlesbrough and Weymouth discussing their experiences and needs in more detail.

The young people told researchers they wanted help in narrowing down their choices in order to understand the kinds of jobs open to them and what they involve, the skills and qualifications required and the immediate steps they need to take towards their career goal.

Many preferred face-to-face advice, possibly as part of a like-minded group, and would like to hear from role models not much older than themselves. There was some concern that some children do not have the skills needed to navigate the online information available on some careers advice websites. The young people questioned were also keen to get experience of work; there is a role here for local employers to get more involved through visiting schools and colleges to talk about what they do and the kind of jobs they offer, inviting groups of students to their premises to see for themselves, offering experience of work or getting involved in local skills shows.

The research identified pockets of good practice in colleges where strong links with local businesses already exist, including a ‘speed interviewing evening’ at Weymouth College, careers fairs and bespoke online careers databases, but these could be further strengthened.

The second stage of this project backs up the findings of an earlier online survey of 2,000 children aged between 11 and 16 published in February. The earlier research demonstrated that:

  • 70% of children turn to their parents and 57% to teachers for advice (earlier AoC research has shown parents and teachers are not confident about their knowledge and ability to give careers advice)
  • Most children wanted to work in fairly traditional jobs, like doctors or teachers
  • Most seemed unaware of the new careers opportunities that will be the norm when they enter the job market