The value that a careers adviser adds with their up to date knowledge around routes into employment and the local and national labour market.

One of the most important parts of my work as a careers adviser is to support young people to navigate the many educational options and future careers that could be available to them, whilst helping them to understand the realities and practicalities of the job areas they are considering.

It’s impossible to do this without getting to know the young person and their current situation first, through exploration. This is the most important part of the interview and what I believe only face to face guidance is able to achieve and what sets a careers guidance appointment apart from any other type of ‘careers information session’. Indeed, in America, careers guidance advisers are called ‘careers counsellors’ and I think this is because they recognise the difference between giving information and giving guidance, and the value of the exploration and listening that goes into a successful careers guidance interview.

There are so many different reasons that people are where they are, and it’s really important to find out as much as possible within the first half of an interview.

Equally important to becoming familiar with a student is having the knowledge to advise on the careers they have asked about, but also to suggest other career areas that may suit them, and support them in their search for realistic career ideas and routes into them. A careers adviser needs to be aware of the constantly changing landscape with regards to different jobs and new and emerging jobs, and jobs that could become less common. They also need to be aware of the changing qualifications needed to get into different jobs. Entry routes for different jobs can vary a lot, and many young people and parents/teachers are unaware of all the different routes into a job. This lack of knowledge can seriously narrow down young people’s career choices, when they needn’t have been. Here are just a few examples of common themes that many people are unaware of:

In some careers a level 4 NVQ can be obtained through an apprenticeship and can enable someone to do a foundation degree, and then move onto the final year of a degree. –A great way for students who prefer learning through a vocational pathway to achieve a degree.

Law firms often prefer aspiring solicitors who take the degree route to have studied a degree in something other than Law and then do the Law Conversion course. To highlight the point even further, the Law conversion course is currently in a state of change too.

It’s possible to do an apprenticeship in a Law firm and work your way up to a solicitor through professional exams on the job. In fact, a lot of Law firms prefer this route. Some take on after GCSEs and others take on after A levels.

It is now possible in some hospitals to do Nursing apprenticeships – from Senior Healthcare Assistant positions.

Police constable apprenticeships are now available. Students can enter at 18.

Perhaps most important is reminding a student who up until that point has been told that GCSE qualifications are the most important thing to achieve and the world is their oyster if they get them, or is their nemesis if they don’t!, that this is only part of the equation.

Once they recognise the job area or particular job they would like to get into and there is a way to get into this that is achievable to them, they need to explore the realities of gaining employment in this role. Basically they need to know – are there many jobs in their chosen career; who are the employers and where are they? This needs to be broken down further into what is the local employment picture and national employment picture? This will help them understand if they will need to move to a different part of the country to get work in that area?’ – ‘will they have to move far?’, ‘what sort of wage will they need to be earning in order to live in this area?, and is the job they want to do going to pay this sort of money? They will need to consider the practicalities of working in this area.

Another important question is – Are there opportunities to progress very far?, or will they always be short of money in that career field? Are they happy to do this for a short while, or do they see it as a lifetime career? If they want to do it for a short while, are there similar jobs that have the same transferable skills but pay more that they aim to move into, once they feel they have enjoyed the experience of the previous job, and are ready to move.

Will they have a secure permanent job or will they be on short term contracts? Will they need to move a lot, and do they like the idea of moving every3 – 4 years and thinking and applying to new jobs every few years? For example,  many Environmental Science/Ecology roles.

What would suit their ideal work/lifestyle balance? Are evening and weekend activities important to them and if so…how much?……would these activities prevent them doing jobs requiring shift work? I have had potential nurses, doctors and chefs who have realised that their love of evening sports and club is enough to know they need a 9 – 5 job.

For those students who are high achievers with little financial support, going into competitive job areas – where are the areas of funding and sponsorship they can apply to? Some Drama schools (e.g. Manchester Metropolitan University) accept student loans, most don’t. Where can those talented budding performers gain bursaries and sponsorship for other drama/stage schools?

If there is any way to gain work in a field without experience, where can they volunteer? how can they network?, how can they in effect widen their opportunity structure through what they do?

If there are no local firms to gain work experience or voluntary work with, where can they gain experience in jobs that have transferable skills that are nearest to the job they want to get into?

Is the area of work they want to go into changing? Is the fourth industrial revolution going to affect its future? I have had several students recently say they want to work in retail. What is that retail job area going to look like in 10 years time? Will there be any reason for shop assistants anymore? Or will it all be through the internet?…I hope not!

This is where our knowledge of changes in the local and national labour market is crucial in helping them to see the realities of the careers they are interested in.

As Ken Roberts said

 ‘Guidance should concentrate not on raising unrealistic expectations, but on helping people to adjust successfully within the opportunity structures open to them’. Ken Roberts 1977’

Helen Bartlett,
Careers Adviser