Are there lessons to be learned from the tattered remains of this year’s Careers programmes? When putting your plans together for next year, should we make some permanent changes to the traditional ways of doing things? Below we try and answer those questions.
When I was a child my dad introduced me to a new card game, 52 card pick up. He stood in the middle of our static caravan, permanently stationed somewhere in a rainy field in North Wales, and threw the cards in the air. I watched aghast as the solemn looking Jacks and sour faced Kings rained down on me and my equally shocked brother. It is fair to say that COVID-19 and it’s subsequent impact on education, has performed the same crushing destruction and deflating trick to Careers programmes this year.
Unlike a deck of cards that needs to be reassembled back into the same numerically pattered stacks, our plans are not subject to those unbreakable rules. We have the freedom to examine what changes we can and should make, we just need to find a place to start. I feel the best place to begin would be examining our use of technology in several different areas.
Here we focus not so much on the specific advice dispensed but of the general planning and delivery of the guidance. Speak to the majority of those in Careers leadership about what they have been able to continue to deliver in the past year and they will almost certainly say Personal Guidance (PG). That isn’t to say that all schools have magically conjured up bucket loads of Advisers to deliver this. The significant combination of a lack of funds and limited numbers of appropriately trained personnel remains.
Those who are blessed to have the staff to deliver PG have been able to. Technology has been embraced to do this and although not perfect it has meant that this vital aspect of Careers education has continued. It may seem fitting, in some degree, to continue to deliver PG in this way. We are not ignoring the issues and problems with this impersonal approach. However, it does mean that Trusts could invest in one Adviser and utilise them across several schools without travel restrictions or be limited to an office.
Assemblies and Speakers
If you’re blessed to live in relative close proximity to a large metropolitan area then getting a variety of good speakers into your school isn’t a large concern. If you live on the Isle of Wight or in Penzance then it isn’t just a concern, it’s a genuine problem. This problem is made significantly easier if schools are able to tap into talks broadcast online. This isn’t a new solution, organisations such as Speakers for Schools have been doing this for years. What we are more likely to see over the coming months and years is a greater number of organisations offering this and a higher number of speakers being available to speak.
It should be noted of course that logistical issues remain as do those around IT infrastructure. However, the majority of schools can support such broadcasts and the logistical issues of getting a year group to the hall is significantly easier than getting a speaker transported across country to the said hall.
I remember a few years ago running Work Experience (WEX) and a not so insignificant number of students being unable or unwilling to participate. I was left to put a tailored programme together for them that had some limited aspects of WEX. Had there been more access to a Virtual Work Experience offer, I absolutely would have made use of it.
I will say that unless VWEX improves significantly over the next few years, it won’t replace the traditional approach to WEX. However, it absolutely has a place to fill that gap mentioned above. It can also be used to find placements for students who’s needs are more niche or perhaps the quality of physical places on offer locally are poor.
Here it’s prudent to focus on the future need of young people as well as the logistical benefits of digital interview practice. I won’t explore the logistical advantages again here, so I’ll refer you to the Assemblies and Speakers section above.
Our places of work and avenues of employment are forever changed as a result of COVID-19. Many more businesses are also changing, have changed, the way they recruit. Virtual job interviews are becoming more prevalent and a clear digital skills gap remains for young people. Sounds odd to say that digital natives have a skills gap but there is one. Young people intuitively use technology but the formal application of it is lacking somewhat.
There is no better time for us to focus significant attention on up-skilling our young people for the more formal use of tech. More time is needed on training young people on how to set up their interview environment including the lighting. We hammer the importance of eye contact in a physical interview and this remains important in a virtual one – just remember the eye to main contact with, is the camera not the eyes on the screen. If we don’t make this next step now, then we are disadvantaging our young people yet further.
Now really is the very best time to try and implement some of the hard lessons learned from this year. All schools will have already taken a heavy benchmark hit, so should not be put off in trying to roll these changes further forward into next year. We would say that it is worth playing a hand, gambling and letting the cards fall where they may.