Careers advice – what are schools waiting for?

Well, this part of Zoomly’s website does have ‘the oddl rant’ in its subtitle – and this is one.

New research by CBI and Pearson delivers some damning statistics on employers’ perceptions of career advice given to young people at school:

Only 7% of employers believe the career advice given in schools is adequate, and 77% believe the quality of careers advice is not up to the task of helping young people make informed career decisions.

And yet, 60% would like to be more involved in providing careers guidance in schools and colleges.

So what are these schools and colleges waiting for? I wonder.

Many years ago, I found myself in a German school as my exchange partner and fellow pupils were briefed on the work placement they would all be doing after the Easter break.

My German comprehension was sufficient to get the teacher’s opening loud and clear: “The purpose of school is to prepare you for work. This is why you will be going on placement after the holiday.”

How do you respond to those words?

Some would say that ‘work’; is too narrow a definition of the purpose of school: surely its purpose is to prepare us for life? In typical 15-year-old argumentative tones I raised this point with my host family over dinner and was told in no uncertain terms that it was the job of several institutions to prepare one for life; not least the family.

OK then, what about the purpose of school is to prepare us for society? Nein, they weren’t fooled by that, and brought religion into the discussion at that point (church is still a force to be reckoned with in Germany; check out their views on Sunday trading).

Zo… isn’t it just a little… oppressive? Doesn’t ‘work’ as a purpose for school cast education in the role of factory, churning out box-fresh workers?

And then I think of Germany’s driving economy and major industries: chemicals, engineering, electronics, IT, machinery, automotive, shipbuilding, textiles, high-tech manufacturing. Whilst here in the UK we bemoan the ‘death of manufacturing’ (although in some specialist sectors alive and well, not on the scale of Germany) and an over-reliance on the financial sector.

Maybe that teacher had a point. I’d love to hear her views on UK employers’ opinion that school career advice is inadequate.

IMHO advice is useful, experience is unbeatable, and experience in the workplace is integral to the German education system, not just at under-graduate but also high school level.

Whereas here, by focusing intensively (some would say exclusively) on grades and in some schools actively discouraging teenagers and young people not to work throughout education in order to hit those grades, I think we’re failing to prepare them for work.

What do you think?


Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.

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