By now you have likely heard the estimate that around 65 per cent of the jobs that children now entering primary school will end up in, don’t even exist yet. With exciting technology like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and self-driving cars emerging and gaining practical use, that’s not exactly surprising. But how can we as a society prepare the next generation of the workforce when we don’t even know what the workforce will look like?
The Government believes they can establish the framework to facilitate this preparation. However, this is the THIRD government that has proposed such a strategy with little results to date. It’s of course hard to predict the unknown, but with Brexit looming, it seems that we are increasingly turning our attentions inwards in laying a solid foundation for our future.
The strategy, due to be officially launched “in the Autumn” has four primary strands:
- Funding for “dedicated careers leaders” for schools
- Careers trials in primary schools
- “Meaningful” business interactions for secondary school students
- 20 new “careers hubs”.
Preface: While it’s possible that the following questions will be answered “in the Autumn”, it is worth teasing this apart now.
More funding for schools is always good, but when that funding is not sufficient to hire additional staff, it means that these new responsibilities will be falling back on teachers whose plates are already full. For these careers leaders to be able to offer up-to-date advice about the job market, they will need to receive ongoing training and have time to interact with the industries. This lack of time could be why careers consultants currently rank so far down the list of people who students go to for advice (being outranked by parents, family friends and even religious leaders according to new research). The content that these people are able to offer needs to be much more robust in order to regain some confidence in the institution.
It’s great that businesses want to work with schools! It will certainly benefit them when they are able to take their pick of prospective employees, all with experience of the workplace. But do they really know how to interact with schools? There needs to be specific guidance around this. It will no doubt be down to these careers hubs to expedite relationship building between companies and schools, particularly for schools in disadvantaged or rural areas where there is a lack of job opportunities.
Putting these questions aside, there are a number of positive aspects of this strategy. The purported commitment to give people from all backgrounds experience of a variety of jobs is necessary if we are to have a true impact on social mobility in this country. The inclusion of careers education in primary school is also promising. That is after all the time when children begin dreaming of what they want to be when they grow up; planting the seeds of career aspiration early (specifically STEM career aspiration) is sure to provide a long lasting return on investment.
It remains to be seen whether this strategy has any sticking power; whether it is one that both sides can commit to. Given our current global standing, any time spent dismantling and reorganising would be time wasted.