It’s been a particularly busy month in FE with the combination of the Skills Show and the Association of Colleges annual conference, and if you’re working in marketing, very very busy.
We also had school recruitment fairs and stands at the Ricoh Arena’s careers event.
And if our presence at these events has taught me one thing it’s that children still like pens and badges.
It was a fantastic experience to engage with so many young people at the Skills Show and yet I did think we were missing a trick in influencing a generation.
So many primary schoolchildren were running around grabbing as many badges, sweets and pens that they could squeeze into their freebie bags and I did not feel like they had been briefed by their teachers as to what the Skills Show was all about.
Do not get me wrong this is not a criticism of the Skills Show — it was an impressive display of providers putting on interactive and meaningful activities for young people to engage with.
It is more an observation that from a young age we have got to get better at educating young people on what they could do and become.
Employers should want to engage proactively with young people to inspire, empower and influence
But whose job is this? Teachers have enough to do and I cannot help but think this showed at the Skills Show. Those teachers who escorted their pupils in the large seemed to provide little focus as to the outcomes of the day.
By the time a group of primary schoolchildren reached our stand and we had asked what they all wanted to be when they were older, they all chimed in perfect harmony “badge makers”.
But it’s not easy delivering exciting and compelling careers education to young people and even more of a task when you get to secondary school where all advice and guidance can easily take a competitive slant.
So what can we do? At a local level we should be inviting our schoolchildren into college and engaging with them as early as possible to show them what their brothers and sisters are up to.
We should definitely be adding focus to activities outside and inside school, for example making sure that there are schemes of work which piece together interests in future occupations and jobs; it would have saved me a fortune in pens and badges if the visitors had been given tasks for the day.
We should be placing more responsibility on employers to engage with young people as the pipeline of their workforce into the future. Employers should want to engage proactively with young people to inspire, empower and influence.
And the National Careers Service needs to be far more proactive in engaging with young people and seen as a service which is readily available to use. At the moment it’s a bit of an enigma.
Schools themselves need to buy in help if they cannot achieve delivery of impartial careers at the statutory level. And this is where colleges could help by delivering a function in partnership.
Staffing in schools, colleges and elsewhere needs to become highly professionalised where such a service is delivered: oh, the irony to make a job out of careers.
I myself am a product of luck — I received little to no careers education, worryingly even less effort was made at my university where I think investing tens of thousands of pounds deserves for you to receive care and attention on an individual level. And not everyone will get lucky, some will fall, some will find their feet but why leave it to chance?