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Careers Hub making the difference in developing young people’s work readiness

Sweta Thakrar, Careers Leader at Challoner’s High School Buckinghamshire, shares her personal journey in growing and developing careers guidance in her school and the vital support, networks and connections developed through the Bucks Careers Hub.

Pupils are inevitably anxious with what they see in the media about the challenges the current workforce is facing and the downturn in the UK economy.

In the face of adversity, it has been imperative for them to rise to the challenge and build on a most sought-after employability skill: resilience. It has been incredible to see how positively pupils have engaged with a new context, demonstrating flexibility and adaptability to a changing landscape and conflicting requirements.

Their motivation, ambition, engagement and aspirations have been ever-increasing whilst they grapple this new normal and keep a focus on what they want their future to look like.

In supporting them for life beyond education it is important to recognise, while academic study and qualifications are important, it is only by coupling it with employability that we really prepare our pupils well for life outside of school.

At Dr Challoner’s High School our all-encompassing, holistic approach has been key to raising awareness of the careers space and supporting our pupils in their multi-faceted journey that lies in front of them.

Our partnership with the Bucks Skills Hub has been paramount in the school’s careers provision. It has given our school access to extremely useful resources, knowledge-sharing with industry experts and fellow Career Leaders at other schools, through the large network of contacts and opportunities it has introduced us to.

It has brought the school more awareness and sensitivity towards the local job market and its current landscape. Such information has empowered our Careers team and staff to share up-to-date and invaluable Labour Market Information to pupils and parents.   

Through Ladi Mohammed, our Enterprise Coordinator, we have access to a vast array of local Buckinghamshire opportunities that have been priceless for our pupils such as; virtual work experience positions; remote encounters with employers and interactive employment readiness webinars.

Ladi has also delivered practical staff training on topics such as “Embedding Careers in the Curriculum” emphasising how we can bring jobs to life in the classroom in a “normal” lesson. This has been invaluable in showing staff how easy it link the theories and concepts they teach to how these are used in real jobs in the professional world.

She has also delivered very useful presentations to our pupils in areas such as Employability Skills -  how pupils can raise their profile and gain a competitive edge when preparing to be assessed by prospective employers.

Our two Enterprise Advisers connect the school to the professional world. They bring insight into current job market trends, intel regarding recruitment and personnel management, job pathways and requirements, contacts with other employers in their networks, as well as tips and advice from the real world of work. They help us review our provision and strategy in the school to help us continuously improve.

Communication with staff, pupils and parents has been a key part of our strategic approach. We have made sure that careers education keeps gaining momentum and that the natural anxiety and uncertainty in the outside world at present, is counteracted by a host of positive opportunities to our pupils. Through a variety of different initiatives such as:

- a newly created Careers social media account where opportunities are shared regularly;

- a recent school-wide Unifrog careers platform launch which integrates well with our newly implemented database Compass+;

- twice-termly Careers Newsletters to share career profiles, webinars/work experience opportunities and alumnae connections;

- a Careers-linked Deputy Head Girl, who serves as the “voice” of students and who also takes part is the Bucks Skills Hub Student Career Leader meetings;

- staff/parent/pupils Careers Provision feedback surveys

Having the backing and support from our Careers-linked governor has been of great importance, especially in these times of change. Good careers provision needs a platform to make itself present in everyday life amidst pupils and staff.

This is only possible through the two pillars of SLT and governor buy-in. Our hands-on governor has delivered a virtual workshop to our pupils on the current topic of: “What did you do during the COVID crisis?” to prepare our pupils for questions like this they may face at university interviews and work placements.

We have more than doubled the presence of our external Careers Adviser at school: from September to November, 210 pupils have already had a Careers Guidance session, with 200 more booked until the end of term. We have also made sure that all of our SEND students and Pupil Premium students have confirmed external careers guidance sessions.

Dr Challoner’s High School has collaborated with a number of providers - Speakers for Schools, Springpod, Founders for Schools, Medic Mentor - giving us access to a number of rich careers opportunities that our pupils have partaken in.

We have also been fortunate to obtain bursaries from private career-activity providers, further helping the school be very inclusive in our careers provision, promoting our social mobility strategy.

To say my time working in careers so far has been a journey is an understatement. What is certain is that in the last few months I have seen the pupils faced with new challenges, adapted ways of working and virtual means of learning.

As a previous recruiter in organisations such as the NHS, AOL & KPMG, I can confidently say that the top “soft skills” employers look for in their pursuit of a perfect candidate to hire are being exhibited by pupils going through this pandemic every single day.

Download: Careers Education in England's schools and colleges 2020 report.