Careers advice after Covid

As the social and economic fallout of the Covid pandemic tightens its grip upon our society, I am reminded of an article that appeared in May from Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG).

There now appears to be 3 critical issues which are becoming all too apparent.

1. Widening gap between the independent sector and state sector of education.

The Covid-19 epidemic and ensuing lockdown has further emphasised the gulf in resources between the independent and state sector of education. Whilst pupil attendance in schools has barely exceeded 1%, it is pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds that are clearly going to be affected the most. As one of the key objectives of Gatsby was to improve social mobility by improving, for example, engagements with employers, this will have significantly affected career guidance provision.

The state sector has, in very many cases, found it immensely difficult to keep lessons going because, invariably, they lack the resources and the technology to mount the sort of programmes undertaken by the independent schools. Work has been sent home; some on-line and/or telephone conversations have been possible but, in most state secondary schools, there has been nothing along the lines of what the independents have been able to offer.

2. Lack of support for careers guidance.

However, even the independents have been forced to focus on academic work supplemented by one-to-one tutorials. Personalised careers guidance has tended to go by the board and there has been little in terms of individual support. So, whilst the independent sector and some of the better state secondary schools have offered, at best, a limited careers programme to certain targeted groups, the feeling is that careers education, especially but not exclusively in the state sector, has so far taken a further step backwards since May.

3. Less apprenticeships and work experience.

As for the remainder of 2020, there is already evidence that the number of apprenticeships has fallen. This is not surprising when you consider that many businesses are focusing upon simply staying afloat during these critical times. This, however, will start to significantly affect employee recruitment of young people leaving school this year and the benefits to be gained from first-hand work experience.

What next?

To most observers it appears highly unlikely that the Gatsby benchmarks will be implemented by the end of the year. This will necessitate a fresh look at how careers guidance, both in schools and at home, can be implemented. For example, if pupils and their teachers have limited time together in the classroom, we must look at ways where we can start to empower young people to start to explore the world of work for themselves. This can be done by using the technology, the conversations and the devices with which they feel most comfortable.

The iGen/Generation Z generation (those born between 1995 and 2012) are either currently still in school or now thinking about careers that could have the strongest demand and deliver new opportunities in a post Covid world. They are also the age cohort for whom tech-oriented communication channels are second nature.

Perhaps it is also time for the DfE to acknowledge this and rethink the way Gatsby can be implemented, thereby preparing all of our young people in the best possible way for what is bound to be a challenging future.

Steve Carrigan is COO at Working Eye.