Careers education must be about more than work experience, says former Ucas head

'Most young people have no idea what their parents do every day,' says educationalist calling for young people to be given a wider vision of world of work

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Young people would benefit from knowing more about the different sectors and professions in the world of work, said Mary Curnock Cook – former chief executive of Ucas.

“What we should be trying to do is help young people understand what’s out there,” said Ms Curnock Cook speaking at the Institute of Ideas’ Battle of Ideas festival today. “Most young people - even those who have parents in professional occupations - have no idea what their parents do every day in whatever job they’re doing. 

“And young people from more disadvantaged background may not have people in their immediate circle who has a job.

"It would be good to be teaching young people for example, the difference between manufacturing and service industries, or private sector versus public sector or big cog in a small wheel versus small cog in a big wheel type jobs.”

Ms Curnock Cook, who is now an independent educationalist, added that the new technical qualifications, the T levels, would include training in transport and logistics but asked how would the average 16-year-old know they want to go into transport and logistics rather than engineering, construction or digital. She added that having some work experience was a good idea but wanted pupils to learn about wider opportunities.

“If we have that careers education, that is really educating them about what is out there rather than just trying to make them work ready, having that career context might be really helpful for them, in motivating them and give them some context… and showing them that getting those grades really does matter,” she added.

Her remarks come after a recent survey by Teach First found that less than a third of the most disadvantaged pupils considered careers advisors to be helpful.

Tes was one of the media sponsors of the Battle of Ideas


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