Exam results are not necessarily the key to unlocking future success – Lauren Brown

There are many routes and pathways outside academia that a young person can take into their future career, says Lauren Brown

Getting good results is great, but if you dont, it does not define your ultimate career path; companies recruit individuals based on so much more than academic qualifications

For the third year running, Scottish Exam Results Day saw thousands of people across Scotland getting involved in the #nowrongpath campaign.

Established in 2017 by Developing the Young Workforce Glasgow, this social media movement aims to provide information and reassurance to young people receiving their exam results.

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Every year, many school pupils have cause for celebration as they open up their exam results. However, for those young people who may be disheartened, it is important to highlight that many people in interesting job roles across Scotland may not have taken a straight, obvious or traditional path to get there.

Lauren Brown, Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian

On Tuesday 6 August, through the combined efforts of the DYW Regional Groups, employers, entrepreneurs and other partners, young people were able to see that options are available to them and that exam results are not necessarily the key to unlocking future success.

In a year where – according to annual attainment data released by SQA – year-on-year attainment rates have fallen, it is more important than ever to show the variety of routes and pathways a young person can take into their future career.

Interestingly, the spike in those receiving awards for vocational courses such as National Progression Awards and National Certificates (from 33,931 in 2015 to 44,744 in 2019) demonstrates the range of options now available for young people to find their next steps – a key recommendation from the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

Young people should feel encouraged by their alternatives – both educational and work-based – as they make decisions in the aftermath of receiving their results.

A huge thank you goes to everyone who got involved and supported this campaign. Within our own employer network, there were several examples of individuals who showed the range of ways to achieve success and that exam results are not the be-all and end-all of everyone’s career journey.

Livingston-based company Incovo, which specialises in telecommunications and printing services, encouraged their staff to support this campaign.

One member of staff – Jamie Bell – left school at 17, saying he failed his Highers miserably and had no idea what he wanted to do. Where did his career journey take him? He is now a Senior Service Engineer for the company, with a career spanning 25 years. He added that he started as a Trainee Engineer, aged 17, passed his driving test and had a company car a few months later.

Another employee – Erin Thomson – left school at 18, dropped out of university and has since gone on to have a very successful career as a Helpdesk Manager.

Last but not least, the CEO of Incovo – Chris Thomas – didn’t sit any exams at school and now heads up a £1 million company with global customers and a team of 10. He is 21 years of age.

These examples highlight a few key points. For me, it shows that exam results do not define your ultimate career path; that it’s OK to alter your course; and that companies recruit individuals based on so much more than academic qualifications alone.

Skills, work ethic, personality and team fit are absolutely crucial to success. When we stop to reflect on our own paths, it is often the experiences we have had – whether it is part-time jobs, travelling, college, university or volunteering – which have developed out skills and shaped our attitudes.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that most people I know have ended up finding a career path that they never would have planned or anticipated.

The significant part of this journey – at least for me – relates to the people we have met along the way. The employers who saw our potential. The people who gave us a chance. The individuals who mentored us, guided us and advised us. Without their input – would we have arrived at the same destination?

#nowrongpath is another example of the vital role we all – especially those in the business community – play in the development of young people.

It is thanks to employers like Incovo – who inspire young people not only through campaigns such as #nowrongpath, but also through their partnerships and engagement in local schools – that there are such a wide range of pathways available for young people to follow.

Lauren Brown, Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian