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Putting the voices and experiences of young people at the heart of our work

12 Aug 2021

This has been an important week for students. Results for vocational qualifications, GCSEs as well as A Levels have all been published. But it’s also been International Youth Day, a day designated by the UN to focus on the issues impacting on the lives of young people around the world. Nicola Hall, our Director of Education, writes about how we’re putting the voices and experiences of young people at the heart of our work to deliver modern, 21st century careers education.

I started as a classroom teacher in further education delivering Business Studies to post 16 students and then moved into teaching and leadership in secondary schools. I taught in Blackpool before taking up Headteacher positions in Cheshire and then in Lancashire. Across all the roles I’ve held, I’ve also seen how powerful it is to include the voices of young people in the work you’re doing.

Education isn’t something that’s done to a child, it’s something they are part of, going on a journey with you to broaden their understanding, develop as people, and ultimately be as prepared as possible for the rest of their lives. Education enables young people to make choices and our role as educators is to facilitate that.

When I joined The Careers & Enterprise Company as our Director of Education, I knew that bringing the real-life experiences of different types of young people, from different backgrounds, with different lived experiences, couldn’t be more important.

If we want to help every young person to take their best next step, then we need to continue to listen to them, work with them and hear their voice in the support services and resources we develop…young people need to be able to see relevance, responsiveness and reaction to their individual needs.

That’s why we’ve created a youth advisory group. A team of passionate students and young adults who’ve been through the system, have experienced careers education and know some of the ways we can continually develop and improve it.

We aim to incorporate the voices from our youth advisory group through all the work we do, gaining real life experience and expertise on the careers education system. These young people will be involved in representing their lived experience to policy makers and shape the future of careers education. They will help build inclusive services that eliminate bias. They will also champion to businesses large and small the value of engaging with young people, and giving young people experiences of workplaces.

Careers education is continually developing. It has come a long way, with major progress in schools and colleges up and down the country. More employer encounters with students, more awareness about apprenticeship and vocational options, and more and more innovative approaches to bringing the world of work into the classroom. For some of our youth advisory group, they left school before those improvements happened, but for others they’ve seen first-hand the progress that has been made and have clear views on how to keep making it better.

Speaking to our 18 strong group of young people, who are supported by the British Youth Council, it couldn’t be clearer why they’re involved.

Inclusion is essential

Ellimae said:I did not have a great experience with careers education, and I would hate for anyone else to experience that. When I left secondary school to be home-schooled, I didn't receive any advice or resources to access careers education. I am still in education and I am experiencing things that other members years back also went through. I want to help in any way I can to make a difference and change the attitudes and priorities of schools and organisations. That individual's passions and well-being are put first!”

For Cam, who has a disability, he wants to make sure careers education is inclusive and high impact for everyone taking part, he wants to “give young people with disabilities an opportunity to be heard within careers education.”

Nathan, who has worked with young offenders in prisons, has a similar motivation,


Nicola Hall, Director of Education at The Careers & Enterprise Company 

CEC Youth Voice

Meet some of our Youth Advisory Group members.

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“I joined to advocate for young people on the margins of society and make sure they are included in careers conversations”.

Nathan White, Youth Advisory Group

But for Gabby, she wants to “represent lower socioeconomic students in particular who have fewer opportunities available than others.”

Skills, knowledge and understanding

Inclusion, as critical as it is, isn’t the only reason our young people want to improve careers education around the country. Lizzie said “I want young people to believe they're good enough, that they have the skills they need for their future, and they know what they're passionate about. For Joseph, he wants “to help young people realise that they can be successful and can get their dream job and career. They just need someone to show them the path then they will be motivated and will work hard to be a success.”

High quality, high impact careers education is also about giving young people a voice in their own journey to the working world, and making sure they have a helping hand along the way. As Abbie-Lee says, it’s important to “provide young people with a voice in their own careers education and to know that they can get to where they want to, maybe just showing them how to get there!”

But as I reflect on how we put young people front and centre in our work with schools and colleges, with amazing Careers Leaders, brilliant heads, college leaders, governors, businesses and volunteers from the world of work, I couldn’t agree more with Muzammil when he said: “I felt not much was done for my careers education So, I thought the best way to change that was to be the change, to shape careers education moving forward with The Careers & Enterprise Company, to help young people help themselves and to help future young people too.”

Thank you again to all of those amazing young people who are volunteering their time, sharing their experiences and perspectives, and helping to continue to improve careers education across the country.

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