Sitting on a careers panel at TeenTech Surrey this month, looking out onto the expectant faces of the young people and their parents, it prompted me to imagine what it must be like making early-stage career and educational choices today.
As human beings we champion choice; extolling the virtues of having more and more options. Yet the truth is it can often lead us to confusion and indecision. And what if the choices we do make are based on a skewed view of reality? Selecting the best course of action can sometimes be a challenge for even the most experienced professional. Imagine what it must feel like as a teenager in 2015.
Listening to the questions posed to our panel it was obvious that one area causing concern for many was the ‘university or apprenticeship?’ debate. There is no doubt that the number of apprenticeship starts has increased. A fact confirmed by data published this October in Apprenticeship Statistics for England which cites an increase of 12% (52,300) in the period 2014/15 compared to 2013/14. As an alternative route to attracting and nurturing upcoming talent the importance of apprenticeships and school leaver programmes cannot be overstated but we are contending with a 20-year legacy of ‘university is king’. A view still perpetuated by some educators, employers and parents alike. No wonder there is a degree of confusion around the options available.
Considering this choice challenge made me reflect on the part played by employers. The reality is our role is much more than providing jobs and career opportunities. We are champions of our industry, creators of potential role models and providers of insight into the real world of work. All of which are key to attracting upcoming talent and developing the skills needed for a thriving economy.
In the 2014 Edge Foundation report, The Skills Mismatch, concerns are raised about the mismatch between the aspirations of young people and requirements of the labour market both now and in the future. These findings are hardly surprising. Despite easier access to information, a young person’s influences may not be sufficiently broad-ranging; resulting in a view of career opportunities that is not necessarily true to life. As employers it is our responsibility to redress this balance.
Whether offering work experience or getting involved with school careers activities, sharing our stories and opening our doors helps broaden the horizons of everyone involved. It brings a context which young people can only gain from interactions with real people. It improves their understanding of work which in turn can help with those all important choices.
Whatever routes we decide to take in building our talent pipeline, providing glimpses and gateways into our world and extending a human hand to young people adds value on many levels. It is also important that we are honourable and create valid and relevant programmes. Many organisations successfully achieve this and several great examples are being showcased at Symposium’s Apprentices and School Leavers Conference on 3 December 2015. The team has again put together a stellar cast with the aim of helping organisations wishing to develop their own apprentice or school leaver programmes. With cross-sector insights and the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, it is set to be an important and informative event.