We might expect parents and teachers and other adults in a young person’s life to offer ideas and experiences and even a little advice. Our experiences of career is something we all feel we have something to offer. Similarly we might comment on our beliefs about healthy living, diet, fashion or even holiday destination. But how many parents, when concerned about their child’s health would assume their own experience is enough, or feel it was acceptable that the doctor’s receptionist would be just as useful as seeing the doctor themselves? Why then does it appear that schools feel it is acceptable to put any reasonably competent adult with a bit of time on their hands to guide, advise or counsel young people on their future working lives? The answer may lie in the lack of understanding within Education of what careers work, career learning and career guidance and counselling is all about. Perhaps 50 years ago it was simply about deciding what a young person might like ‘to be’ when then grow up; a familiar question of young people by grandparents who aren’t sure what else to ask them. But the complexity of the labour market, the opportunities available and the pace of change is such that today more than ever young people need skills, knowledge and information from professionals who are specifically trained to provide it. It cannot be delivered in a half hour discussion with the head of year 11, let alone with the receptionist or librarian. Careers, more than ever before, must be integrated into the curriculum from the early years of secondary school at the latest and supported by fully qualified professionals to help young people make complex decisions and smooth transitions.
If we don’t get this right, all the grade A*s achieved could be as passports into an unknown wilderness. By all means support the achievement of the passport but, please also ensure that young people also get some decent maps, from someone who knows about the new landscape and the new roads to get there.
Anne Chant, Centre for Career & Personal DevelopmentCanterbury Christ Church University