Navigating the Careers Maze

The Careers & Enterprise Company helps to prepare and inspire young people for the fast-changing world of work. We link schools and colleges to employers and help them to deliver world class careers support. 

In this piece, we explain how a great careers education can help prepare young people for the transition from education to work, and how you can support them on their journey.

Don’t know your T-Level from your A-Level? Not sure of the difference between a university degree and a degree apprenticeship? You’re probably not alone.

It’s brilliant that young people have a greater choice of pathways towards work. But increasing choice means increasing complexity. Navigating these choices can feel daunting for young people and parents alike and it can be difficult to know where to start.

We have set out some of the basics of what good careers education looks like, so parents can help make sure their children get the support they need.

The changing face of careers education

When it comes to teaching the curriculum, most of us have a fair idea of what a good education looks like.  The national curriculum aand Ofsted reports help us understand what children should be learning and what a ‘good’ school looks like.  

But when it comes to careers education, the picture hasn’t always been that clear. As a parent, it can be difficult to know what to look for.

The good news is that this is changing. Many parents we speak to remember their own careers education as consisting of a week spent making coffee and photocopying.

But now, schools and colleges in England are benefitting from a set of clear standards called the ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’. These are based on what the best education systems around the world are doing and provide a clear picture of what works.

Although it is early days, schools and colleges across the country are improving across every aspect of careers education. We have set out some of the key aspects of good careers education and where you can help.

How you can help

Learning from ‘labour market information’

It’s brilliant if a young person’s dream is to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But it’s important that they make the decision armed with all the important, practical information they need.

They need to know how many software developer jobs exist, how much competition they might face, salary expectations, what qualifications employers are seeking and much more.

We think every child should ‘dream big’ and follow their passion. But you should also encourage them to be curious about the more practical considerations.

There are a number of places you can go to get quality, up-to-date information about all sorts of industries. Students can ask their school or college to help them find this information.

They can also use free services like the ‘LMI For All’ Careerometer, National Careers Service, BBC Bitesize Careers website or Careersbox to compare different job profiles and case studies.  

Enjoying regular interaction with employers

We know that young people who receive multiple ‘employer encounters’ while at schools are less likely to end up NEET (not in education, employment or training) and are likely to earn more in later life.  

‘Employer encounters’ could involve a range of activities including visiting speakers, enterprise competitions, careers fairs or workshops. They give young people the opportunity to meet and engage with a wide range of employers directly, helping them to both broaden their horizons and find the path they want to take.

A talk from an employer could be the spark of inspiration that sets them on the right path. Equally as important, it could help a young person decide a career isn’t for them.

Your child’s school or college will help to facilitate lots of employer encounters. So make sure your child makes the most of these opportunities.

And why not give a careers talk yourself! Find out how to help at Give an Hour.

Work experience

Work experience  may be a day a week over a few months, or a one or two-week block. The important thing is that young people are experiencing real work tasks in the workplace. Two weeks of photocopying and doing the tea run won’t cut it!

As a parent, you should encourage your child to start thinking ahead about what they want to do. They should be active participants in the process., so they need to have a good idea what they want to get out of it.

Encourage your child to think outside the box and do their own research. Given enough time, employers are often more than happy to arrange a work experience placement. Why not ask your own employer?

Encourage your child to ‘think outside the box’

Over the last few decades, we’ve come a long way in terms of equality in the workplace. More careers and industries are open to more people, with younger generations leading the charge.

But there is still a long way to go. Stereotypes still impact the career decisions that young people make, whether they consciously realise this or not.

Research we carried out looking at the career choices young men and young women make found that gender stereotypes still strongly influence careers choices.

Encourage your child from a young age to think about all sorts of careers, regardless of their gender or background.  

Here to help

It has never been more important to make sure that young people are inspired and prepared for the world of work.

The good news is that schools and colleges are getting better at providing great careers education for students. And of course, parents have a key role to play in this too.

Find more interesting articles in Careermag

Visit The Careers and Enterprise Partner Profile

Sign Up

Search Jobs