Bridging the careers gap
"The opportunity to reach 16,000 students as a careers champion is really exciting," says education adviser Sian Gresswell, after completing the first workshop in the new Careers and Employability Leadership Programme developed by education charity Teach First and LifeSkills created with Barclays.
The intensive 18-month programme is part of the just-launched Careers and Employability Initiative, a partnership between the two organisations that aims to deliver better careers education to pupils from low-income backgrounds.
Teachers and schools involved in the initiative will also receive regular training sessions to help them make links between the curriculum and the world of work, while careers and employability learning will become part of Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme for graduates.
The innovative programme is designed to address the gap in careers education – research cited by Teach First shows that disadvantaged pupils are three times more likely to be out of education, employment or training after school than their better-off peers.
Following a successful pilot, 44 schools have been selected to take part in the Careers and Employability Leadership Programme – including those of the Greenwood Academies Trust in the east Midlands, where Sian is an education adviser.
We have learnt an enormous amount about the development of young people over the years both through our own recruitment and also our LifeSkills programme and we see a real gap in Continuous Professional Development for teachers around employability.
Director of LifeSkills
Sian, who was a secondary school teacher for six years before taking up her current role, says: "This will enable us to have that careers expert in our academies to really drive change in schools and ensure we are doing the best we possibly can for our students, supported by industry experts."
Kirstie Mackey, Director of LifeSkills, Barclays UK, says: “We have learnt an enormous amount about the development of young people over the years both through our own recruitment and also our LifeSkills programme and we see a real gap in Continuous Professional Development for teachers around employability.
"We hear frequently from them that they need more time and support around employability and vital input from UK businesses to help them to understand how the world of work is rapidly changing. We therefore very much hope that this will be the start of strategic and long-lasting change in how careers and employability is embedded into education."
Across all strands of the initiative, LifeSkills resources will be embedded into materials and training. Sian says this will provide support to teachers “to instil confidence in their students”. She adds: “Through being part of the programme, we want to make sure all of our teachers embrace careers education and feel involved in this journey.”
One big potential benefit is in helping schools challenge career stereotypes, according to Sian. “We are committed to broadening horizons, raising aspirations and challenging stereotypes. Gender stereotypes form between the ages of five to seven, so it’s crucial to inspire young children too and make them aware that there are so many exciting jobs out there.”
Sian’s first training session, for instance, discussed the importance of effective role models. “We don't know what the world of work will like in 2030,” she says. “But what we can do as educators is connect students with inspirational people in different jobs. Former students who have gone on to have successful careers can become local positive role models that the next generation can relate to.”
"The aim is to provide our students with the information they need and help develop key skills for employment that give them the confidence to achieve their full potential. We don’t want them to feel limited, to think 'I can't do that because I'm a girl, or because I’m from this area of the country'."
Reflecting on her own personal experience, Sian believes the most useful careers advice she received as a student was through the "inspirational people" she met along the way. And, she says, "there’s nothing more rewarding as a teacher than inspiring the talent of tomorrow."