Careers Advice at School in 2013
An occupational psychologist who works with the NHS to provide career support to doctors recently wrote about how doctors spontaneously recoil the moment the term ‘careers advice’ is uttered, and blank out any information received thereafter. This particular psychologist has a theory about why that might be. She believes it is partly because of the dismal level of career support students receive in school. This attitude is by no means restricted to the medical profession. A large number of people feel that the career advice they received in school left much to be desired.
It is a well-known fact that when it comes to most secondary schools even today, career counselling and advice is not really high on the list of priorities. The careers curriculum is covered mainly because it needs to be covered, and more often than not, teachers assigned to cover it are not qualified, skilled or even particularly interested in careers counselling. It is not uncommon to assign careers teaching to staff that happen to be free during the particular scheduled time!
In fact, the psychologist who talks about this in a medical profession context, cites this exact anecdote saying that not only did it happen to her when she was working as a secondary school teacher, but the same thing happened when she was a pupil; and the very same thing happened to her daughter who is now a teacher! What does this go to show? That the way secondary schools handle the careers advice curriculum has not changed for several decades, and that it remains to be a low priority topic.
Poor career advice in school not only deprives students of important information and support at a key stage in their life, but can also have a more lasting impact. Low expectations from the career support received in school can easily translate into indifference towards similar services later on in life, and this could lead to ill informed decisions. People may not be able to take advantage of strong career support during further education or further during their career simply because they received terrible career advice in school and have come to expect that career support doesn’t have much to offer.
There is an urgent need to change the status quo, and bring career advice in secondary schools kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The world is changing extremely fast, and career advice is as relevant today, if not more, than it has ever been. New technologies and changing economic and social trends mean that the face of work and careers is also changing very fast. In this new light, it is important for pupils to develop an understanding of the professional landscape so that they can make informed choices. This is no time for secondary schools to take career advice lightly. It is time to step up and offer sound advice and strong support to their students. After all, you can bet your bottom dollar that most other First World nations in the world have this particular issue well and truly covered – leaving the UK lagging woefully behind, as usual!