A silver lining………………..

It has been a terrible year for so many, but students have been hit particularly hard. Months at home, no social life, cancelled exams, and stress-levels at record highs. It’s been unprecedented and horrible.

The last years of school aren’t just about lessons and qualifications. They are a crucial time for self-discovery. For dreams to be created and plans put in place to realise them.

This means that lockdown, and with it, the closure of many businesses and their premises weren’t just cruel on those directly involved, but also on the students planning inspiring work experience and future careers.

My team and I saw this firsthand from the very start of the pandemic. We are careers practitioners, delivering advice and guidance to children in years 11, 12, and 13, and our focus had always been on providing it in person on site.

So while March 2020 led to many professionals having an enforced rest, we had to act fast. We felt that this was one part of a student’s life that could adapt to lockdown, but there was no time to waste. We had to be agile.

It seemed pretty clear that we move online. But that wouldn’t be easy with remote learning in its embryonic stages and with many employers so preoccupied with rescuing their own businesses.

But we found a way: Scheduling interviews later in the day so they didn’t interrupt crucial lesson time. Switching to virtual platforms and video conferencing. Suggesting students carve-out this ‘career’ time to segment it from their academic focus. Involving parents (many of whom are key workers) in these virtual meetings. Working with partner schools to adapt their delivery models.

We had aimed to deliver as close as we could to our pre-pandemic levels of advice and service. What we didn’t expect, is that they would improve!

It has been a long year, but things have moved fast. So fast that students seem more readily engaged in the guidance process than ever before.
According to the Careers and Enterprise Company, by November, 72% of schools believed careers guidance had become more important than ever due to Covid. As importantly, 76% of business leaders stress that there is now an increased need for employers to support young people trying to enter the workplace.
Careers Leads have been incredibly resilient, continuing to help make this possible and highlighting the need importance, and relevance of the Gatsby Benchmark 8 for Good Careers Guidance.

It has been quite a journey, but there are vital lessons to be learned, in this sector and beyond. Careers Leads in schools have explained that an online provision gives students a new breadth of opportunity. They are no longer stymied by the provision in their local geographical area.

Students, meanwhile, seem more focused and enthusiastic than ever before. Perhaps the news cycle has made them more conscious of the challenges ahead.

Or maybe lockdown has left more time to focus on careers? As a member of staff in one school explained, “students are increasingly grateful for the guidance and a conversation about the future given the current state of affairs.”

Either way, the energy and positivity with which they have thrown themselves into the process is very special.

For anyone running a business, or working with teens, we would conclude that:
1. There will be a place for virtual advisory services even once restrictions have ended
2. Those services often create a more conducive environment for consultancy
3. Business people remain keen to help
4. Never underestimate the resilience, vision, and drive of this generation of students
And although it has been a year to forget, this is, at least, a very significant silver lining.

I’m always happy to connect and discuss any of these themes.

Author: Joanne Green (Careers Lead for the Changing Education Group)
“As Lead Careers adviser at Changing Education I support a team of experienced advisers in their delivery of Careers Advice and Guidance and advise them on issues they have encountered. I also collate and discuss feedback from all our Partner schools to plan and shape future delivery.”

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