Careers education must change

What is it like to be a young person, trying to decide which career path to take? We’ve invited a guest blogger to provide us with an insight into life as a teenager and young adult.

Careers education is a vital resource for children and teenagers to inform them on life choices. The need for careers education goes back to Year 8, where the students are 12 or 13 years old. A question arises, asking these children to decide on their GCSE options. I remember this question at the age of 12. The Deputy Head of my grammar school said that you need to backtrack your plans and imagine your future career. What degree do you need? What A levels are important for that degree? What GCSEs are vital to do those A levels?

Lack of careers advice

The amount of stress that was forced on myself and my peers at this age felt extreme. Before this, we had had little to no careers advice. Due to this, I took the subjects I enjoyed the most, which lead me down the route of art and textiles. Looking back at this now, at the age of 19 and halfway through my first year of university studying Psychology, I’m struck by how confused I felt. This ill-informed decision that I made at 12 influenced the next 5 years of my life. I had a career path in my head of fashion design through both my GCSEs and my A levels, until I started going to university open days. Myself and one of my friends in my A level textiles class went to a taster lecture on fashion design and marketing. Surprisingly, the only aspect of the lecture that I found interesting was the marketing side. The fashion design parts of the lecture I found to be positively boring.

At this point I was 17 and at the end of Year 12; I was halfway through my UCAS application for fashion design at 5 different universities. I realised that the path I’d been following now for the whole of my teenage was not the right direction for me. Applying instead for psychology was nothing more than a whim. I knew I didn’t want to do fashion design, and my grammar school pushed so hard for their students to go to university that I submitted my application to UCAS with the subject of psychology, having never studied the subject at any level.

Choosing the right career path

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I should have changed sixth forms to have the ability to study psychology at A level, I should have written my extended project qualification on mental health impacts. These things would have helped me be more confident in my decision of psychology as a career path. However, for the generations coming through the education system, they shouldn’t need to require hindsight when it comes to their career paths. They should have education on the subject that allows them to identify their career from a young age. It would reduce their fear at the young age of 12, being confused and conflicted over what subjects to take at GCSE, which is the first step that takes them to the end of their education and into the career that they have sculpted their education to fit.

I’m lucky, in the sense that I now have a path. My bachelor’s degree in psychology will hopefully lead to a master’s in counselling and psychotherapy, finally ending at a career in person centred counselling. Lots of my friends haven’t been so lucky. For example, my sister, she’s currently in her final year of her biomedical science degree, but she doesn’t know where to go after her education. This is something that causes her stress and confusion, as she continued following the path of interest that had no ending.

Proper guidance on a career discovery path

All of this could be avoided for future students making their way through school, by giving them the space and the guidance to discover what it is they want to do, before they go so far down one path that they can’t see any other direction anymore. Careers education in this country has to change. We have to allow our children to understand the options that they have out in the world of work. This is where Working Eye comes in. Without children being able to search for and understand different job options and careers, how can they feel comfortable and confident in their educational decisions?

Hannah is a 19-year old undergraduate studying Applied Psychology at the University of Cumbria.