The current generation of school-leavers are expected to be among the worst victims of the recession. As a result, enthusing young people about career opportunities and planning for their future is one of the toughest jobs for schools.
Teachers talk about there being two camps: the pupils who think they are the finished article and that any employer should be pleased to have them; and the fatalistic ones who, having seen the effect of the economic downturn, do not want to risk going to university, accumulating debt and not having a career at the end to show for it.
This means anyone involved in careers guidance must find a balance between being realistic and not crushing ambition. Research in schools has found that young people want to be inspired before they think about taking their first steps towards a career. The challenge is that careers advice is not yet seen as a core requirement in schools and is a low priority compared with the curriculum and preparation for exams.
An effective careers service is dependent upon access to up-to-date information, individual support and feedback, and as much involvement from employers and employees as possible.
Web resources are an important foundation. Online portals can provide an interactive and individual relationship with each pupil, providing an area where they can develop and store CVs and record the development of skills relevant to their career ambitions. Such portals can also be used to offer pupils an online dialogue with professional careers advisers and peers.
Teachers often argue that without practical employer involvement, they find it impossible to address the issue of the employability of young people. It is not just a case of what qualifications employers are looking for, but also what types of skills are required (ie, the ability to deal with people), the styles of behaviour involved in the job and the desired attitude of the employee.
Schools need to be creative about involving local employers and finding the best ways to engage pupils and deliver motivating lessons about the world of work. One idea is to set up mock interviews with actual employers for Year 11s. By requiring pupils to create a CV, fill out an application form and write a covering letter, you can give them a true-to-life experience.
Alternatively, schools could invite employees in to be quizzed by pupils on their jobs, responsibilities and working days, with the aim of trying to guess what job they do. This helps students understand the day-to-day tasks involved in work and how careers develop.
Dragons' Den days are another idea. Get pupils to come up with an innovative product to pitch to local employers and ask them to explore all aspects of the manufacturing process, financial analysis and marketing. This will teach pupils about the range of careers involved and help them to develop communication, teamwork and presentation skills.
During a recession, schools need to give pupils a clear understanding of the changing needs of employers and help them think about the opportunities that exist and what they can achieve by adapting themselves to new and emerging markets
Tanja Kuveljic is managing director of b-live.com, which works with schools to support pupils through their personal, vocational and educational development.
- Provide up-to-date information, individual support and feedback;
- Be creative when working with local employers;
- Use online portals to create an interactive and individual relationship with each pupil, helping them to develop CVs and access advice from careers advisers.