Careers learning in your subject

In a previous blog, I discussed the concept of teachers becoming Leaders of Learning, meaning they facilitate a child’s learning rather than taking the traditional role of being a giver of information. Leaders of Learning will find it easier to help young people develop the skills they need than if they see themselves as a traditional teacher.

Careers Education is a subject that all Leaders of Learning should take some responsibility for as part of the learning that happens inside their classroom. It is also a hot topic right now for those lobbying on educational policy development. The Skills Minister, Nick Boles, has recently said: "Giving our young people the skills and confidence to achieve their potential is key to creating Britain’s workforce of the future”. Schools, colleges and other learning providers have been urged to adopt a new six-point plan, The Foundation Code, to provide young people with careers education, information, advice and guidance that will better prepare them for the complex demands of the 21st century workplace. To help bridge this need a new careers and enterprise company has been created to build links between employers and schools.

Leaders of Learning can play their part in the careers education element of CEIAG. Firstly, they have careers themselves, and they have experience of achieving a career; this knowledge would be invaluable to learners. It is important to mention a health warning at this stage: leading learning should not be about telling the young person what they have to do or what the Leader of Learning did themselves. Instead, it should open up opportunities within the classroom to find out about careers within the Leader of Learning’s subject area.

The key here is for the Leader of Learning to advise on exploring opportunities and develop links with organisations relevant to the subject. Try to invite some speakers in to talk to the learners, ensuring that the learners themselves (and not Leader of Learning) plan for the talk and create questions or discussion points about careers in that sector. Facilitate the session by encouraging learner inquiry in preparation for the talk and help them to make it a two-way process, more like a question and answer session with the presenter. Not only will this ensure that learners are engaging with the process, moreover they will be developing the soft skill of communication, which is much sought-after by employers.  

When the Leader of Learning is creating activities around their subject they should always have one thought on how Careers Education could be incorporated. For example, a maths lesson on areas or volumes could be linked to the construction or interior design industries. Not only will this cover the academic knowledge needed but will also provide a relevant real world context. Remember, leading for learning is not about giving knowledge but engaging the young person to the extent that they want to learn independently or ask questions. To be able to learn to learn is another important soft skill required by employers for the 21st century.

Through PSHE, Careers Education can be developed by creating student-centred activities researching specific careers that they may want to explore further. Create the activity so they think and plan exactly what they are going research, how they are going to do it and the specific sources they will use. Will they use primary research by asking experts? Will they use the Internet? If so, which specific websites (it’s no use just surfing aimlessly!)? This type of activity will be focused on the planning that the young person does, carrying out the activity and then reviewing how it went to develop their research skills further. To be able to research effectively and find answers is a soft skill required by employers.

Finally, Leaders of Learning could set a creative writing activity in which the young person creates letters of application for a career they would like in the future. This could be a creative writing piece based on the letter being from a character from literature, possibly a character they are already studying? Learners should imagine that it is a career this character would like to gain a job in. Learners would need to find out about letters of application and also about the specific career they are interested in. Leaders of Learning would encourage the young person to make their own choices about their learning. Being creative and having the ability to make choices are soft skills required by employers for the 21st century.  

Leaders of Learning can therefore facilitate the development of a young person’s soft skills within an academic context. There are also ways of accrediting this learning through ASDAN. The Careers & Experiencing Work Short Course is a programme that includes up to 60 hours of learning activities which can be certificated. Other specific short courses in Mathematics, PSHE and English could be used to support the learning mentioned in this blog.

Author: Gareth Lewis, Former ASDAN National Development Co-ordinator

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