Written by Senior Career Development Consultant, Dr Oliver Jenkin PGCE RCDP
The UK education landscape is a busy, albeit stranger period in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Student attendance at schools and colleges has resumed with additional measures in place to help minimise the risk of infection (e.g. students being separated into ‘bubbles’, etc.). Although this has not been without logistical difficulties or instances of some students needing to self-isolate in response to Covid cases, the situation in universities appears to be considerably more trying in some cases, with examples of students in a number of universities being confined to halls of residence due to Covid outbreaks. The latter situation has added a new dimension to ongoing debates about the relative value of Higher Education, with some commentators asking whether it is still appropriate for universities to be still charge students full tuition fees when they are unable to enjoy all aspects of the traditional university experience.
In the context of CSW Group’s work in the South West, our Career Development Consultants have been no less busy working to support young people in school and further education settings. This continues to include targeted support for young people with Education, Health and Care Plans who have educational transitions to make, as well as delivering contracted services to schools to help them meet their all-important Gatsby Benchmarks. It is perhaps a cruel coincidence that 2020, the year of Covd-19, is also the year by the end of which all schools are required to meet all eight Gatsby Benchmarks as laid out in the Government’s Careers Strategy, but South West schools seem no less determined to rise to this challenge and CSW continues to be instrumental in helping many schools achieve this. In some ways our staff have had to adapt and work differently. In some schools we are still able to meet students face-to-face, albeit with appropriate social distancing and other measures in place. For other schools, Career Development Consultants have been able to adapt their service and deliver 1:1 personal guidance in a different way, taking advantage of commonly used platforms such as Teams and Zoom to ensure that young people still have access to high quality, independent and impartial career guidance.
Whatever the ongoing context of Covid-19 brings, what is abundantly clear is that the role of career guidance for all age groups has never been more important. The pandemic has laid bare the mutable and sometimes fragile nature of job markets and in some ways has accelerated processes such as the impact of technology that were already visible before the ‘new normal’. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025 the time spent on tasks will be evenly split between humans and machines, a development which will require people to be increasingly ready and willing to retrain and reskill in response to a rapidly changing jobs landscape. In this context, it is less and less meaningful to talk about ‘career’ as comprising one, stable job role that an individual will pursue throughout much of their working lives. This was already an outdated idea before Covid – it is simply more obvious now. Career development professionals are a vital factor in helping young people adjust to this reality and develop the flexibility and resilience to make good decisions and hopefully thrive in this new context. This is the challenge facing young people in the South West over the coming months and years, but it is a challenge that CSW’s Career Development Consultants are working tirelessly and innovatively to prepare them for.