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Chris Targett
8 October 2016

As a careers adviser with CXK I am mainly deployed within the Schools Team, delivering careers guidance and education activities across a range of different types of schools in Kent. However, over the summer I was privileged to spend some time with the National Careers Service Community Team delivering services to adults within Job Centre Plus offices. I say privileged for two reasons, firstly whenever we are working with clients, regardless of age, it is a privilege to be part of their lives even for a short time (as a source of support and assistance). Secondly, to work with and learn from highly experienced careers advisers, who work in a different part of the sector, is an opportunity to learn new skills and push our own boundaries.

From this work I picked up some further lessons for careers practice in schools and colleges. These focused on:

Transition and change
Recognising the value of skills
Networking for survival and success
Transition and change

Some of the adult clients I encountered found it hard to cope with transition and change in their lives. In school we discuss this with students in terms of “careers theory” and “developmental processes” or even considering that many of us will now hold ten or possibly more different jobs or roles in our lifetimes; moving through a constant cycle of change. Yet, the reality of this can have a huge impact. Changing directions, careers or roles through unexpected events can be unsettling for many due to the threat involved. I returned from my work with adults (many of whom had faced redundancy) to GCSE and A-Level results days in school. I found many students, whose plans had changed unexpectedly, having to find mechanisms to cope in the same way the adults I had been working with were also trying to do. This raised the reality (in my mind) of change in our own lives; many of us may not feel as safe or secure as we hope to be.

It also highlighted to me the need for access to good careers guidance for all. Guidance supports strategies with how to cope with change as well as access to accurate information; whether this is in the context of what makes a strong and serviceable CV to look for work or what the options are on results days when things don’t quite go to plan; guidance is crucial. It also made me realise the importance of exploring with our students how they are going to transition, from school to a new setting or even to a Post 16 offer in their own schools. Some students have fabulous support mechanisms at home and others have none or struggle with change in their lives. It is in particular, for these latter students that we must go the extra mile (often as multi-disciplinary teams), to ensure they do not get lost in transition.

Recognising the value of skills

As a professional who understands quite clearly the practical value of transferable skills, it was mind blowing for me to see this being explored in practice with adults. I was able to witness some amazing transformations as the clients the team worked with were able to understand their own value, thanks to the advisers who helped them to define, through reflection and exploration, the skills they had and where they could put these to use in the labour market. Education we know is crucial but what we as educationalists need to also shout loudly about are transferable skills; not only the range which is out there but, also where they fit within the labour market. We should also go further; we need to help clients understand what the skills are which they are gaining through education as well as their interests and how they can boost and enhance their skills as they progress. This means breaking the cycle of students gaining merits and grades for their own sakes and helping students understand the actual skills they have and how they can evidence these to prospective employers. I heard stories of graduates who just didn’t know the value of their Degrees and were facing unemployment because they didn’t know how to show their own value to employers. This was echoed time and time again, where adults from various sectors and roles couldn’t see what they had to offer. Guidance unlocks this potential in our adult clients, as well as students in school, when we give this process time coupled with strong careers education programmes.

Networking for survival and success

This was an interesting lesson and one I have begun to see replicated in schools. Building a network of contacts for the future is one way in which we can future proof ourselves against unexpected change. Adults who have robust networks of contacts have a greater chance of accessing the hidden job market if made redundant or seeking a career change; such networks can be virtual, through business or social contacts. Within these networks, individuals have a greater chance of being referred into a job vacancy and/or having a wide range of references to tap into if needed. For our students, lessons with regards how to network and maintain networks can be crucial in helping them to develop skills in this area, along with the standard careers education packages regarding safe use of social media and clean email addresses.

We need to ensure these ideas are pulled into our programmes. Students need help coping with transition, indeed sometimes their parents and carers need help as well; let’s be there for them. With skills, we need to ensure that the value of what we teach is set out loud and clear beyond the grades they each achieve; students must come away from their studies knowing what they have to offer the world. Lastly, let’s not assume they know how to network but prepare them for this through employer talks, in-depth guidance provision and robust careers education programmes. Each of these three key lessons I learnt through my summer with my colleagues in the National Careers Community Team. These lessons can be bought back to our work in schools with students at the start of their career journeys. Let’s provide them with the best start we can so they can cope better with change in the future.

Written by: Chris Targett

This article was first published on the CXK Blog on Friday 23rd September 2016

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