Wednesday, 21 May 2014

'Gissa Job'- How will your child know what to do as a Career?

I read a very interesting article the other day which said that the Welsh government had been advised to rethink the way in which schools were providing careers advice in schools.  Essentially, the <article> was saying that the guidance was in dire need of updating and school leavers needed to be enlightened as to the opportunities available and encouraged to think about what they wanted to do before they stepped out of the school doors forever.  It would appear that in Wales, a number of school age kids leave at 16, with relatively low GCSE results and no idea of what to do as a job, let alone a career.

I cannot pretend to know whether or not this article was representative of the truth, or indeed whether it is another scaremongering tactic by the Press for some reason, be it political or anything else, but I have to say that as a relatively intelligent (well, on a good day)mother of a rapidly growing teenager, it is something that I am starting to wonder about.  He takes his GCSE’s next year, and already we have had to go in to the schools to discuss A’ level options, and he is only 14.   It is frightening how much he has to decide at such a young age, and how his subjects will then influence his University or further education choices.  As parents it is also frightening – we grew up in an age before the internet was commonplace, jobs were divided into trades or professions and the rest of us who just got a generic Bachelor of Arts degree managed to stumble into careers until something better came along.  Nowadays you pretty much need a dedicated degree for everything – and the choices are baffling.

I remember our careers advisor at school.  It was in Wales, but don’t tie that up to the beginning paragraph because it was a private school -  or as it was billed ‘ An independent School for Ladies’, and as such had its own rules and regulations when it came to careers advice. Our careers advisor was also the History teacher, and was the second prettiest teacher in the school by virtue of the fact that she wore layer upon layer of mascara.  We would stare, our shiny faces devoid of makeup, in fascination during History as her eyelashes stood out like little spiders legs, and she would pick at them absent mindedly as she talked.  Miss Black (rumour had it she was married to a Mr Green, but I think someone was having a laugh)was quite a good History teacher and she also waitressed in the evening at a posh hotel, and by all accounts she was very good at that.  But she was a rubbish careers advisor.
We’d go in to what I can only recall was a broom cupboard, where there was a proliferation of books and papers covering a desk, behind which she sat, and in front of which you’d hover until told to sit.  She would then peer through her lashes at you and ask what you thought you would like to do as a career.  You then told her – my list included PR (because I thought it sounded quite a laugh), fireeater (I always wanted to do that), Olympic swimmer (hmm) and an award winning actress.  A friend of mine said she wanted to be an archeologist because she liked designing things (I know… this is what Miss Black had to work with…) a chef because she liked eating things and a History teacher (because she liked Miss Black).  

And after you told her, she would go through an ISCO psychometric test that we had all taken – which narrowed down our careers according to our personality type and the answers that we had given (coupled with of course, our grade predictions).  She then read off the typed up results and gave us a bundle of university prospectuses (or should that be prospecti?) and sent us on our way.  My list suggested that I went into PR (result!), or Advertising, became a journalist, went into teaching, or (and this was a little odd) went into the Fire Service… My friend’s was even shorter – it suggested that she became a secretary, or went into the Fire Service…

The school that my son goes to is, by comparison to my own experience, very switched on when it comes to careers.  Throughout his time there, there have been talks from various parents and professionals, there is a careers convention coming up for the kids, and the children are encouraged to look on the internet at the variety of jobs around.  There is no doubt that the sheer amount of information that is out there is frightening in itself – a few taps of a keyboard and you are immersed in worlds which simply weren’t accessible when I was making those decisions.  

And as a parent it is confusing.  For a start, everyone is now an engineer – whether it is a technical engineer, a print engineer, a mechanical engineer or a BT engineer.  Hierarchies are moveable, everyone has a title -there is more than one Vice President of each company, you now have companies where everyone appears to be a VP.  And of course, aside from the age old professions, there is a new gamut of jobs of which we were barely aware, because it was in its infancy, and that is IT.  Spawning millions of jobs worldwide, the IT industry has not only invented new trades and professions, but has transformed the workplace for our kids.  No longer will they be working in one place, but they will have access to a global network, no matter what job they do.

And so it was with trepidation that I opened up the latest careers email from the school which encouraged us to take them up on the offer of a <COA> psychometric careers analysis for our child (and for a fee).  This would then give him a  36 page document and up to 20 suggestions of careers, and courses  based on his answers.  I thought for a couple of minutes and then said Yes and pressed Send.

Because you know, that basic typed up list that I got wasn’t that bad.  30 years down the line you can see that as we stumbled through life, my friend did actually take a secretarial course and subsequently took a degree in Project Management in which she now has a career.  I dabbled in various things, but ended up best enjoying those that were Press, PR and Marketing related, and ended up running my own home based business which covers all aspects of commercial writing. Our own minds had told us what we were suited to- and rather weirdly- whether from a subconscious memory of that tatty piece of paper, or fate, we ended up doing them, despite attempts to the contrary.

But neither of us ended up in the Fire Service.  On the other hand,never say never…