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Chris Targett
31 March 2016

As children grow they begin to learn about the world around them, by osmosis they pick up on the work of their parents or carers, their friends’ parents and wider relatives. We often look to labour market information (LMI) to give us an indication of what jobs are available in the local area yet, the process of living and growing up in an area can help us to grow an implicit understanding of what opportunities are available when we are older. Depending on how curious or nosey we are about the world around us!

However in the 21st century, is this natural filter warped by media and the wider vision of what is available? Young people are inundated through television, internet and radio, and of course books.

To what extent is our natural filter distorted by this mediation; placing careers which are less available locally under the microscope, making the possibility of a career in them appear larger than, it is for the local area they are growing up in; so we feel they are more available?

Is this a good or bad thing? It perhaps depends on how deep you look…

In many ways, it depends on what is mediated. The effects of science programmes and Brian Cox (of TV science fame) can be seen as a boon for economists, if it encourages more students into the shortage area of STEM. Yet, how many false expectations are raised then dashed by talent programmes; such as the X-Factor or The Voice? Having seen students who have genuinely thought the chances of a singing career via the X-Factor was quite high, it is the compassionate and empathic careers professional who must be careful when helping students explore these careers, with judicious use of LMI to offer a reality check.

Of course, we live in an education system which, allows students to hope, strive and for a fortunate few progress to these niche careers; with many others transferring their employability skills (team work, confidence, problem solving etcetera) out to the labour market, having had a few years learning, playing and enjoying the areas they love. Perhaps this is something we should celebrate in our culture? We have an education system that has more than one purpose; it is not always about getting a young person into a job but, it can also be about the love of education and living a life through this.

Consider the nervous, anxious student in Year 11, who is just finding their way in the world. Through studying music they may hope for fame and fortune but, as their vocational maturity and skills grow through studying what they love, they also grow their employability skills… confidence, team work, independence skills, problem solving.   

If their music career doesn’t come off or their ideas change, they have built the skills and confidence enough to enter the work force, such as becoming a manager following a school leaver programme or graduate scheme.  It is through understanding this developmental process, from fantasy to exploration to establishment (and with gentle coaching and support) that careers guidance professionals, can help clients come to terms with their changing ideas and selves so, they are ready and able to embrace the opportunities of the future. As opposed to falling into despair and unemployment through not understanding the skills they have developed on the way.  

For this reason, perhaps we shouldn’t always despair when a student says they wish to be something which, is (on the surface) a little fanciful; their fancy may help them grow as an individual who has the ability to find their place in the world.

Written by: Chris Targett

Originally published on the CXK Blog, Wednesday 4th November 2015

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