Shaping young people’s career choices for the shifting demands of the jobs market

By David Baldwin, Headteacher Churchill Community College and Board member The Careers & Enterprise Company

The latest report by Education and & Employers is an interesting and important contribution to the debate about how we connect the career aspirations of young people with the job needs of our economy.

It highlights the vital importance of developing a robust pathway from education to employment and the positive impact excellent careers education can have on shaping and supporting the ambitions and aspirations of young people.

As someone who has spent the last 20 years leading a secondary school in an area of significant disadvantage, I have seen at first hand the inspirational impact that careers education done well can have on the life chances of young people.

Maintaining a connection with the opportunities in this fast-changing world of work is a complex task.

There is a stark contrast between the disappearance of jobs in mining communities which seemed to occur almost overnight and the current demise of the high street retail sector, which is more a story of long-term erosion.

These changes are largely driven by the inexorable forces of the slowly shifting tectonic plates of global competition and markets and more immediate impact of innovation and disruptive technologies.

It not so easy to know with cast iron certainly what the jobs of the future will be. There are few labour market economists who forecasted the advent and rise of roles like app developer, Youtuber, social influencer and gamer.  These have emerged in recent years as new, lucrative and well-rewarded roles. Youtuber Joe Sugg has accumulated a net worth of £4.6 million.

AI is also upon us.  Many are now grappling with what the impact of AI might be and how wide the impact will be felt. It will undoubtedly create new careers opportunities, but also produce churn and challenge to existing jobs. A report by PwC projects that AI may boost global GDP by $15 trillion, but 30 per cent of existing jobs will be at risk.

What this emphasises is the critical importance of the new approach to careers education, framed by the Gatsby Benchmarks. And to use careers education to nurture dexterity amongst young people to respond to a changing business landscape.

By placing encounters with business and employers at the foundation of the new world-class standards, young people are connected with real people from the real world of work. It therefore ensures the careers experience for young people is flexible, adaptable and responsive to the fast-changing employment landscape.

It is particularly important in areas of disadvantage where many families have little experience of or exposure to the world of work.

The signs of progress are strong and encouraging. Research by the Careers & Enterprise Company shows that the number of schools and colleges fully achieving the Benchmark for learning from career and labour market has nearly doubled (from 27% to 49%) over the last two years. Linking the curriculum with careers has risen from 21 per cent to 41 per cent.

Eighty per cent of young people are now benefiting from meeting employers every year and two thirds are gaining from work experience.

We should not and cannot expect the impact of the new approach to careers education to be instant and overnight. This is a long-term project of transformational change in the systems and culture of careers education.

This research by Education and Employers complements other research showing the tangible impact excellent careers education can have and is having in raising aspirations, awareness, knowledge and skills – helping young people make more informed career choices. It also shows, the more young people meet with real people in real jobs, the more options they have about their own career paths.

The landscape for jobs will certainly continue to change fast. Ensuring our young people are regularly connected with a wide, rich and diverse range of employers and workplace experiences is therefore essential to enabling and empowering them to make the most of the opportunities of tomorrow.