We need good advice so young people don't rely on luck

Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan offered an insight into her life and career last week – but young people shouldn't need to rely on 'random events'
9th November 2020, 6:34pm

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We need good advice so young people don't rely on luck

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/we-need-good-advice-so-young-people-dont-rely-luck
Young People Shouldnt Have To Rely On Random Events, Writes Julia Belgutay

Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan often talks about her apprenticeships. In fact, I would go as far as to say that almost all speeches by the minister, who took up that role earlier this year, have made reference to what she believes was her route to a successful career in international business. And as the first FE minister with an apprenticeship under her belt, that is maybe what one would expect.

A talk organised by the Naz Legacy Foundation and charity Rising Girl a few days ago, where the minister shared her journey, marked no exception. Having gone to a "failing" school, her apprenticeship provided her with a route into international business, she said, and opened the door to a successful career spanning decades. Ms Keegan spoke candidly about the challenges she faced, moving abroad and dealing with foreign cultures and languages, and facing successes, as well as failures. "Success," she said, was "just one more try after failure" - describing her career as a series of "random" events.


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The minister took a very personal approach to her talk, stressing the importance of a supportive partner in seeking success and the difference a smile can make - but also revealing her insecurities around becoming a new member of parliament and sharing her fear of speaking on television.

She shared her belief that it is crucial to make the most of opportunities that present themselves because of the finite nature of life, and her own worries that one day, like some of her relatives, she may develop dementia. Pushed on subjects like misogyny in politics or her pay as an MP, she did not hold back either - admitting her perspective on this was coloured by her previous successful career in business.

It was easy to see Ms Keegan really cared about her audience, and showing, in particular, those young women watching that an apprenticeship can open countless doors. Which, of course, they do.

Her openness, however, revealed one of the largest challenges around young people finding their path to fulfilling their full potential. Prior to being offered her apprenticeship at Delco Electronics, she said she had wanted to become a hairdresser, having always liked hair.

How many young people, then and now, do not have that, in the minister's words, "random" event where the direction of their life changes and they pursue a career in international business instead of becoming a hairdresser? How many, instead, enter a career on a whim or insufficient careers advice and never reach that moment where they find themselves in what Gillian Keegan called the "job of her life"?

Access to real, personal careers advice could not be more important. People need support so they know what their options are - and so they do not have to rely on passing interests, family or friends for inspiration, or, in Gillian Keegan's words "random events". There is no doubt her apprenticeship set the minister on a path that has brought her success. But that can only ever happen if the right learners and the right courses come together. And for that, it would be nice if we didn't have to rely on luck.

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