Some of the biggest influencers in a young person’s life, outside a parent or carer, are their teaching and support staff. A teacher’s guidance is hugely significant, especially when career decisions and future choices become increasingly important.
Teachers do a fantastic job of providing support as young people transition from school to the workplace but, without recent exposure to modern industry, they will rarely be specialists in the intricacies of the current labour market. It could be a worthwhile investment of time, both for teachers and for employers, to participate in continuous professional development options for teachers where effective careers advice comes from ‘field work’ – spending time getting immersed in what business is really looking for.
Yes, it might be a controversial statement, when it is often reported that schools are stretched to capacity, but it is certainly worthy of further examination, especially when we consider that more than 80 per cent of teachers feel they lack the necessary knowledge to offer careers advice.
So, why do many teachers feel ill-equipped to confidently offer fully comprehensive careers guidance?
Even in the most innovative of schools, only a proportionally small amount of time is dedicated purely to helping pupils to think about available opportunities and career pathways. Similarly, despite the amount of time that young people spend learning new skills and knowledge, there is a balance to be struck in ensuring pupils are making the link to how these skills can be applied in the workplace.
Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian Regional Group often hears feedback that most employers do not feel that school/college leavers or university graduates are well-prepared enough for the world of work, and sometimes it can be easy to attribute this to the perception of what is, or isn’t, being taught in the education system.
However, there is another part of the picture. It is not just our schools that have a part to play in educating our young people and preparing them for their working futures. There is a role that the business community must play as well – a recommendation that was woven throughout the Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy. Developing teachers’ knowledge and skills of the business environment is crucial, not only as part of the National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education, but also to improve life chances for all our young people.
Nobody could deny that the world of work is changing at an ever-increasing rate, especially with technological and digital advances; new technologies are evolving all the time and with it, the skills and know-how among the business community must also advance at pace.
The communication and engagement between businesses and schools is, therefore, vital. If teachers have followed their vocation and gone straight from university into the classroom, which is often – although not always – the case, they will not always have spent time in industry.
Indeed, just as those of us who work in industry will not always fully understand sectors outside of our own, the same can apply to those specialising in education. If we expect that our educational influencers are in a position to offer current and fully comprehensive careers advice, employers should provide the pathway to enable them to do so.Teachers need to be able to prepare their students to succeed in a changing world — including how to use emerging technologies, how to navigate evolving workplaces, how to communicate effectively, and how to think critically and solve problems.
That’s why businesses providing teachers with the opportunity to continue their own education by taking part in industry placements will go some way to enhancing careers advice and allow the teacher to impart personal knowledge of the workplace environment. When teachers receive professional development, the school and its pupils feel the benefit and the benefits for the business community are wide-ranging too.
We should not forget who is at the heart of all our endeavours as part of the Developing the Young Workforce agenda – our young people. They will feel the positive effect of recent industry experience from their teachers and will benefit from more vivid and current careers information.
Lauren Brown is project manager for Developing The Young Workforce West Lothian Regional Group. www.dyw-wl.com