Route to job satisfaction

30th November 2012 at 00:00

Earlier this month, City amp; Guilds relaunched its Career Happiness Index, a comprehensive survey of what people in the UK consider to be the most important factors that contribute to their happiness at work. The study showed that gardeners and florists are the happiest workers in the UK, followed by hairdressers and plumbers, while bankers, IT professionals and human resources workers are the unhappiest. The results also examined what aspects of these jobs contribute to happiness and revealed something most of us have long suspected: what gives workers the most satisfaction is not financial remuneration, but the opportunity to use their skills every day to do something worthwhile that they enjoy.

The importance of skills and the vital role they play in getting people into work and helping them to progress in their careers has never been higher on the national agenda. However, young people still don't know what different jobs require or how to go about accessing the right training to build a sustained and satisfying career.

The UK's biggest skills and careers event, the Skills Show, took place recently at Birmingham's NEC. It gave young people the opportunity to experience different skills-based careers while receiving high-quality careers advice and finding out about apprenticeships and job opportunities from employers.

However, the careers information, advice and guidance offered more widely falls far short of what is needed. One of its biggest failings is streamlining young people too early and often directing learners down an academic route without considering any vocational options. As a result, many young people are being denied the opportunity to access what could be the most suitable pathway to their chosen career. This shortcoming was addressed in the recent report on apprenticeships by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). I wholeheartedly support the recommendation that equal emphasis needs to be placed on vocational and academic pathways and efforts made to raise the profile of apprenticeships.

Although university is the right option for many, there is room for a more practical, industry-focused route, a route that would enable young people to develop their technical skills to the highest levels through vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, and provide a clear progression path.

As proposed in the BIS report, we need to make sure that vocational education is given the recognition and status it deserves as a valid pathway towards a good career. What we need are skill diagnostics services that are up to scratch. Furthermore, teachers can't be relied on to provide all the careers guidance that young people need. The Association of Colleges' latest report emphasises this: it finds that 57 per cent of teachers feel obliged to encourage young people to stay on at their school after GCSEs, rather than advising on alternative routes. Careers guidance must be seen as a profession in its own right, so that more people can access trained careers guidance professionals.

Young people need to be told about all the available training options so that they can access the kind of skills that ultimately lead to their job satisfaction.

Chris Jones is chief executive officer and director general, City amp; Guilds.

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