What different groups of young people do you work with?
I work one day a week at Richard Hale boys' school in Hertford. The rest of the time I work with young people in the community. At school, it's primarily with Year 11s to make sure they know what their options are. In the community, it's targeted at motivating the Neet (Not in Education, Employment or Training) group.
How well informed are pupils about potential careers?
They aren't always very realistic. A lot say they want to be vets without realising the qualifications needed. There is a shortage of ideas: boys still go for jobs such as mechanics and construction; and girls, childcare and hairdressing. My job is to open their eyes to what's out there, so they can leave wanting to do a job they didn't know existed.
How do you find working in schools?
My school has been really supportive and has bent over backwards to accommodate me. There are times when our work with Year 11s is disrupted because of school trips or exams, but I am able to switch to other year groups. I work closely with staff to identify pupils with particular needs, and then we are able to target them together.
What do you offer apart from advice on careers?
Sometimes pupils want to talk about housing issues, bullying or health. Our role is to help remove the barriers stopping young people accessing training or jobs. We deal with some intense situations and can refer people to other services.
How do you get Neets interested in education or training?
It can be really difficult if there is a history of parents not being in work. But it is important to get them to think about their futures. They might only need a small amount of money now, but I encourage them to think about what they might want in 10 years' time.
It can be a slow process, but we have situations where we get young people on the right kind of practical courses and they excel.
Will diplomas make a difference?
Diplomas have great potential to give young people the skills they need to get jobs. They could improve things a lot, but there is going to be a real challenge to get some of the more academic pupils interested in them, since A-levels are so well-established.
Should there be careers education in primary schools?
Yes. Careers information should be integrated into the curriculum. It would broaden the horizons of children from a much younger age and help raise their aspirations.
- John Brady is a Connexions personal adviser in Hertfordshire.