Natalia Tomás Navarro
Head of Sixth Form
Choosing a career is a long and overwhelming process but it all begins with a good foundation on the basics. It is important therefore that students understand the what, how, and why of the career guidance process. All students have the right to acquire the knowledge, information, skills and experience necessary to identify their options to eventually be able to narrow them down to make one career decision and an early start makes all the difference. This journey which helps students make mature and informed decisions starts with the act of seeking advice and it is paramount that this guiding, or showing the way, is a shared and co-ordinated effort between school and home. Also, the use of technology to assist all working parties involved in this process is becoming more prevalent as it promotes interest and provides useful and ready information for all those that take part in this undertaking.
What are the elements of effective careers guidance?
Career development is more than just deciding on what university degree to study or what jobs can be accessed when students graduate or obtain their qualifications. It is a lifelong process as we all change throughout our lives, situations will change, and we all have to continuously make career and life decisions. People have realised that we cannot all be doctors or engineers so there is an increasing exploration of other fields depending on interests and talents. Career guidance therefore needs to be an integration of several aspects of students’ experience, including access to resources, information on career opportunities, guidance from counselors and career assessment.
The most important elements therefore are:
- A mentor (Career counselor) who can solve problems, is a keen listener and observer and has sufficient knowledge and experience of various fields to guide students in their career options.
- A safe and secure environment where students feel at ease to be able to discuss their life with confidence and trust (home and school)
- Career assessment and tests to evaluate and obtain information on a student’s aptitude and personality as well as their emotional strengths, interests, and skills all of which help students understand themselves better and make career decisions much easier.
Schools support and involvement
In 2013, Sir John Holman created a framework that schools, and colleges can use to develop good career programmes. These are known as the Gatsby Career Benchmarks / Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit.
These guide every good career counselor and educational practitioner and some of these recommended practices for schools are worth noting:
- Career guidance should start early, for instance, in year 7.
- All stakeholders should be included, including parents and employers.
- Share information about the school’s careers programme.
- Career content should be developed in all subjects, not just Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
- Make available labour market resources to all students and parents.
- ALL students should be provided with information on ALL routes.
- All students should be provided with experiences of workplaces.
- Existing systems to track destinations and careers and enterprise activities should be updated.
Parents involvement and engagement
A recent study report by the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick in the UK with the support of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation (The role of parents and carers in providing careers guidance and how they can be better supported) has gathered much evidence to support that parental engagement in careers is also important to facilitate and/or expand opportunities for young people. It also states that the influence of parents is applied through behaviour but also through family conditions that encourage the growth of values, attitudes and self-perception in children. It is clear that young people seek and value parental support and often request input into their career decision-making processes.
However, parents’ own experience of education influence and shape their recommendations and expectations for their children. It is therefore crucial that parents get involved and engaged to feel more informed and confident about the support and advice they give to their children about their career choices. They can firstly get involved in activities at home and within schools in order to provide psychological, financial, learning and well-being support and structure. Secondly, they can get engaged by joining institution-based activities, including communication with teachers and career advisors, plus attendance and participation in activities such as parents’ evenings, university fairs, breakfast and coffee mornings, career guidance sessions, option interviews, work experience, etc. Without a doubt parental engagement and involvement supports the development of career-decision making and confidence; planning, goal setting and creating a sense of direction.
The use of new technologies in career guidance
Technology continues to be integrated in every aspect of education and increasingly, now a days, in career education. Parents, students and teachers can now engage into this process by obtaining information on career provision, qualifications, options and pathways since a wide range of apps and websites have been developed for this purpose. Unifrog is an example of a macro portal which aims to support students with careers and empowers parents, teachers and counselors to monitor and manage the whole process successfully. Students can compare every opportunity and learn how to complete university applications all around the world. The use of this technology supports the development of information seeking and research behaviours which is key to gaining not only useful information on qualifications and degrees but further knowledge about career adaptability, flexibility and employability skills.