On 21 June The Observer published its manifesto for change, which set out an eight point plan to ‘minimise the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’. Here at ilrnr, our proposals for minimising the impact of the pandemic on young people are founded in our ten years of delivering financial life-skills education to students in secondary schools.
They are firmly rooted in classroom level experience dealing directly with thousands of young people aged from 12 to 18 years of age. And we know first hand that the careers education our young people receive needs a complete overhaul.
A radical approach
The challenges faced by young people to build independent adult lives before the pandemic struck were considerable, since lockdown those challenges have become even greater. We now need a radical and more functionally useful approach to preparing young people for employment than we have ever had in the past.
Our approach sees employment as one of the four fundamental life-long relationships we all have to work at to become an active citizen. It is by employment that we generate the personal revenue we need to build our lives, meet the needs of our families, pay our taxes, create savings, own a home of our own and so much more.
The power of employment
We work with young people in schools to show the power of employment, so they dont see it as some kind of dreary duty (‘you have to get a job’), but as the way to achieve their own aspirations. Employment is the starting point for their journey into adulthood and, as a society, we have woefully neglected our duty to prepare young people to make that journey with confidence, armed with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
Our approach is to deal with the practical issues that concern young people about getting a job. There is a lack of good quality information of real benefit to a young person when they think about what kind of job they want. Too often (and for obvious reasons) companies, trade bodies, professional organisations of all kinds paint a very rosy picture of whetever career they promote, but they very rarely explain in detail what the realities of the job are.
Instead they concentrate on projecting an attractive image for themselves, their business and the line of work they are selling. It is as if an airline only showed it passengers glossy photos of their destination, but told them nothing about the price of their flight, the travelling conditions, the duration of the trip or the on board services.
Our approach is to start by talking to young people about their aspirations. We then move on to explore how achievable their aspirations are, introducing other notions like sustainabilty and resilience. We do this because unless their aspirations are aligned with the realities of the UK job market, and benchmarked against their own skills and preferences, we would be doing them a disservice.
What we are working on now is to give them access to accurate, up to date, useful information about what a life in one of hundreds of jobs is actually like. The best way to think of this is to imagine what you would say to a young person who wanted to follow your career? You would tell them about the core daily routine, the salary, the hours, the promotion prospects, the chances of training and personal development, the holidays, the pension, the benefits….the nitty gritty of the job.
You would so that because you would not be selling them the job, but describing what it is really like, and it is by describing accurately what a job is like – and then by answering the questions that prompts – you have a fighting chance of delivering useful employment education, that will help a young person to make better career choices.