On the panel were:
- Sara Caplan, a partner at PwC and ambassador for higher apprenticeships at BIS
- Sir John Holman, an eminent science educationalist and author of Good Career Guidance for the Gatsby Foundation
- Liberty Pim, a sixth former at Charters school, Sunningdale and the recipient of a Diana Award for fundraising.
It was my job to chair the debate and ensuing discussion with a very knowledgeable and well informed expert audience.
Some common themes ran through the contributions of the speakers and the audience:
- There is a dearth of effective careers advice and guidance (CAG) in schools and colleges.
- There is an acute need for face-to-face CAG. The current situation where school pupils cannot access the National Careers Service leaves too many unsupported and ignorant of the careers available to them and the qualifications they will need.
- Schools are too focused on exam preparation and progression to university. The availability of good apprenticeships, and the vocational routes they offer, are not understood in too many schools.
- Good quality work experience is really, really important in giving young people access to the workplace and experience in the work environment, where the skills of good communication, working cooperatively, being resilient and reliable, good presentation and showing initiative are all essential and are shown to be so.
- The London model of employer engagement with schools - where large firms send staff into schools in deprived areas in order to raise awareness of career progression and employability skills - cannot be replicated throughout the country. It is not a model that fits rural areas, or areas of economic deprivation. We need a new model of employer engagement which involves small and medium enterprises (which, in fact, create most of the employment opportunities for young people).
- Schools and colleges need to know what good CAG looks like. The Gatsby report highlights eight benchmarks for quality CAG.
- Schools and colleges should be places where pupils are exposed to the prospect of a rich and fulfilled life – where skills, as well as academic knowledge, is fostered.
And a final word from Liberty Pim. CAG should not be about making decisions at a too young age, it should be about opening up horizons for future career paths. I could not agree more!
My thanks to everyone who contributed to today's debate, which was wide-ranging and engaging. I'm really looking forward to the final three debates in this series of #ShapeEducation debates, which will take place early next year.
Dr Mary Bousted chaired the second #ShapeEducation debate 'Funding effective careers guidance – is another 'lost generation' a price worth paying?' in London on Wednesday 26 November 2014.