Careers Programme Planning

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a new careers leader. Our responsibilities, and the hours allocated to delivering careers guidance and a comprehensive careers education program, often feel woefully mismatched. Over my seven years as a careers leader, I learnt that the way through is to plan out the bare bones of your careers program for each year group as soon as you have access to your school calendar. What you will be able to achieve over the course of an academic year will depend on the priority given to careers guidance in your school or college, and the team that you can build to deliver the careers program.

Schools have limited time and money available for careers education so there may need to be negotiation around the time that is going to be allocated in the school year, and the working hours dedicated to managing and delivering the curriculum. Janet Colledge produced a number of guides for careers leaders to help communicate the importance of careers education to SLT, governors and staff and to give an idea of the commitment needed.

Who makes up your careers delivery team and how much time they have been allocated to organise and deliver will make a big difference to what can be achieved in your school.  By introducing careers champions or ambassadors into school, both staff and students can expand your team. National Careers Week has resources that can help you to recruit, organise and reward your champions.

Once you have a good idea of who you will be working with, focus on building a careers education curriculum that meets the needs of your students. The CDI has published a new framework that is worth considering whilst in the planning stage.

There are a few key elements that need to be planned for. These are:

  1. Curriculum delivery – Careers education can be delivered by tutors, by teachers in subject learning, through drop down days or events and assemblies. National Careers Week have year round resources that can be downloaded to build careers education into the curriculum. Careers leaders need to ensure that whoever is delivering has access to quality videos, assemblies, podcasts and presentations.  Do subscribe for the monthly e-zine to keep abreast of the latest news and resources.
  2. Surveys – intended destinations, and career program evaluation. Conversations around intended destinations in the autumn term can be used by form tutors to refer students for one to one guidance with a qualified careers adviser (triaging). An intended destination form completed in the Spring term can be a great way to pick out Year 11 students who are still struggling and need additional one to one support. There are a number of ways of doing career program evaluation, a combination of career learning surveys and student voice can work well. Careers and Enterprise Company have a model evaluation form in their resources library
  3. One to One guidance – Who is delivering (this should be a Level 6 qualified careers adviser), to whom, when, and how is this being triaged? Who manages the appointments? Ideally the careers adviser will be able to offer follow up appointments to the most vulnerable students. Some schools prioritise ensuring that every student has a one to one interview with a careers adviser.  Although the CEC’s Compass evaluation of Gatsby Benchmarks rewards quantity over quality, time pressures can mean that a non-tailored approach to careers advisor interviews can lead to low quality encounters.  If your focus is on good student outcomes, then it is much better to ensure that all students are well informed about their options and are then prioritise careers adviser appointments by need. This then allows your careers adviser the time needed to have meaningful conversations with students and to follow up with your most vulnerable students.
  4. Parent Communication – Parents have a strong influence over the decisions that young people make around careers and education. Therefore, parents need to be fully informed regarding  post-16 and post-18 options and how students can access support. National Careers Week partnered with to produce a Parents Guide to Careers   This provides parents with information to help them support their child’s decision making and gives them all the basic information about education and employment routes.
  5. Employer and training provider events –Mock interviews, careers fairs, employer talks, and speed networking; these can all be planned with an eye to National Awareness Weeks Employers and businesses love to do school outreach during national awareness weeks or days as they can use the publicity generated by the week/day to amplify the publicity around their activity.

National Careers Week 2022 is from March 7th to March 12th. As a careers leader I would try to organise a couple of events for the week itself, but the timing of mock exams meant that our drop down days were always arranged for July. This needn’t be a problem as most of the resources are available year round, however access to the Virtual Careers Fair will be available for a limited time only. This is a great resource for online exploration of early careers options from a wide range of organisations, so well worth timetabling. Subscribe to the new monthly magazine to keep updated, as new resources are released throughout the year.

In conclusion, I would say that a positive approach to a big job with little time allocated is to advocate for time, for yourself, for your students and for your team. Time spent planning helps to work towards meeting Gatsby Benchmarks and can build a purposeful and impactful curriculum. Make the most of freely available resources to empower your team. Use your planning to show what is achievable, and work with your SLT to see how much is doable.

Dr Farheen Khan is a Steering Committee Member at National Careers Week, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Good Work Guild. Previously she was Head of Careers and Employability at a multi academy trust and has worked in academia, industry, the voluntary sector, and in the civil service. 

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