Disruption wrought by the pandemic has compounded the challenge of helping students make the right decisions at a time when the range of study and career paths has increased, while limited money and time available to support careers programmes has been restricted.
The pandemic has created both opportunity and challenge for school career programmes. It is now clear that hybrid, online and virtual approaches will continue to dominate the way students find out about jobs or academic pathways. And likewise recruitment and application processes for jobs, courses and university.
As a result it makes sense for a school to review whether their career programme is keeping pace. We believe there are five key questions every school should ask itself in order to deliver a careers programme which takes advantage of the changes and delivers on the needs of students.
1. Are we delivering the right careers support at the right time?
The first challenge is to be certain your careers programme provides the right support to the right students at the right time. While it is common for schools to focus careers activity around exam and transition points, helping children lower down the school to develop a clear picture of their strengths and interests equips them to make more informed choices later on.
Step back and look at the sequencing of your careers programme over every stage of the school journey. Review whether you are focused on interventions that meet the needs of students. And whether you are providing them with the inspiration and tools they need to start making decisions about future study and careers paths.
2. Do we have the right delivery model in place?
Over the pandemic careers programmes were by necessity delivered on an ad hoc basis rather than designed for a hybrid world. Schools score higher on Gatsby scores when they include a rich mix of subject teachers, local careers hubs, independent careers advisors, and digital platforms, in their careers education programme. (2021 Trends in Careers Education, The Careers & Enterprise Company).
Once you have established what you need to do differently you’ll need to review whether you have the right mix of people to lead and deliver the programme.
3. Making most of hybrid careers opportunities
The pivot to hybrid is enabling schools to connect students with a wider range of employers, work experience opportunities, qualification providers and academic institutions. Now schools need to think about how they prepare students to succeed and get the most out of an experience whether that is virtual or in person.
Invest time in experiencing new resources, insight programmes, and ways of applying. Use this insight to map out the skills, knowledge and behaviour that underpin success. Then create support packages to prepare students ahead of key virtual and in-person events.
4. How can we ensure every student makes the best choices?
It has got harder to engage students in thinking about careers since the pandemic and that isn’t surprising. Following the disruption to exams and introduction of Teacher Assessed Grades, students are feeling the pressure to do well in every assessment. It can feel like all that matters is exams.
Every schools needs to help students to value the idea of careers education. And the best way to achieve that is to give each student a clear idea of how it benefits them and help them to feel in control of their decisions.
To achieve this, assessment tools should be the foundation of any careers programme. To provide each student with an accurate understanding of their strengths and interests which gives them the confidence to explore study and career paths.
5. How are we communicating the change?
Students and parents in particular are acutely aware of the disruption to careers services. Added to which they are struggling to navigate new qualification and career paths, which can feel like the wild west. They are nervous about all this and most want to know how the school is supporting their child.
Better transparency about what your careers programme delivers, why, and how effective it is, will help parents understand how they can better support their child and highlight opportunities for employers to get involved.
Make effective use of feedback in your assessment and communication. Include insight from parents, current pupils at each transition stage as well as leavers destination data.
We have produced a guide to help schools explore these and other questions further.
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