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To what extent can careers education tackle disadvantage?

08 Mar 2023

The new chair of our Youth Advisory Group Elijah Denning and the new youth member of CEC’s board, Mohammed Samir, reflect on the role careers education can play in tackling disadvantage and the importance of employers and relatable role models from the world of work engaging with disadvantaged communities and supporting young people, in their commentary article for our Ready for the Future report.

It is encouraging to see growing evidence of the role modern careers education can play in tackling disadvantage.

Disadvantage can be complex and multi-faceted and careers education is only one piece in the jigsaw, but it is an important piece.

What really stands out is the evidence that careers education has double the impact for economically-disadvantaged young people and how it is closing the disadvantage gap – meaning they are significantly less likely to become NEET.

Too often, young people in disadvantaged communities lack the connections and inspiration to look beyond current circumstance.

As someone from a FSM background, building an awareness of a wide range of industry roles can be eye opening. In disadvantaged communities, you often only see the people immediately around you. So careers education has a vital role in showing young people jobs and opportunities they’ve never before thought of.

It provides access to role models who can encourage aspiration and ambition, building networks beyond family and the local community that can provide guidance and open doors to opportunities. It shows you, if they can do it, so can I.

It also connects learning in lessons to real life, motivating study with a clear goal in mind and shining a light on the pathway to achieving that goal. Many young people find it hard to see how what they are leaning applies in the real world. So it shows them that it’s not just about the now – there’s a bigger picture – it’s a bridge to what happens next.

What we now need to do is generate greater fluidity between the world of education and employment to provide that spark of inspiration.

Through their engagement with education, employers and business professionals can reach a deeper understanding of long-standing and embedded barriers, help develop solutions and lift the communities they are part of.

Roles models are particularly important as many view some professions as inaccessible for someone like them. So representation from people who come from similar backgrounds as role models is key. This also applies to Alternative Provision, where employers need to improve engagement, where meeting roles models like you can prove that you too can have a great future.

Engagement from a wide diversity of employers and roles is also important, as young people from disadvantaged backgrounds may not know how their interests align with certain career paths or have the opportunity to explore the wide variety of careers out there. Often the only professional roles they will come into contact with are those met during their time in education. This particularly matters when it comes to key milestones in education (GCSE or FE options) in helping them choose the best path for them.

Teachers can have a greater influence on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, so developing relationships with business helps them bring relevance to the subjects they teach, demonstrating why it matters and is important for life beyond the school gates – that what young people are learning has purpose.

Ready for the Future Report

Read the latest findings in our Ready for the Future Report.

Learn more