Helena Pozniak
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The Telegraph
Teachers, students and parents can all have a say in changing school support for jobseekers, says Helena Pozniak

Two teenagers at different schools can face vastly different futures. One pupil may receive one-to-one careers guidance, regular inspiring talks from visiting employers, hands-on work experience and support from parents, who both have good jobs. At another school, a poster on the back of a door merely advises a pupil to look up career information on the library computer.

Simon Cusworth, head of employability at Croydon College in south London, says that he has witnessed both scenarios. He has many years’ experience advising on careers at secondary schools and has seen the good and the bad. “Quality of careers advice is very patchy around the country depending on resources. But when it does engage young people, it can be excellent.”

Well-designed support at school can raise aspiration and turn around pupils’ futures. But at worst, it can reinforce stereotypes and limit potential. However, as jobs evolve and new sectors emerge, what exactly do teenagers want or need?

Conducting a nationwide survey among secondary schools, the Telegraph has joined with Lloyds Banking Group to establish what support and advice young people currently receive during their school years and what they would really like to know to make the right career decisions.

The 2015 Employability Survey has been developed in partnership with Jobmi. com — The Job Matching Marketplace. It asks teachers, pupils and parents critical questions, such as: How effective is current careers advice? How do young people actually decide on their careers? How can they be supported in finding a route that will play to their strengths? The survey is available to take part in at telegraph.co.uk/ discoverwhatmatters.

Every school that submits at least 20 responses from its staff, students and parents will be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win two fantastic Apple iMacs. Individual submissions from students and parents will be entered into a separate prize draw, with eight winners each receiving an iPad Air. The winning schools and individuals will be announced in the Telegraph, along with details from the research findings.

Francesca Campalani, senior emerging talent manager at Lloyds, says: “In the UK we’ve moved away from a manufacturing environment. Teaching skills alone doesn’t work any more for young people. We need to help them understand who they are, what their strengths are and how they can adapt to change.”

Knowledge gleaned from this survey will be shared with schools and employers. She says: “It’s about creating a cycle of conversation between schools, pupils and employers to help young people find their vocation. A bank should support a community — this is an investment in people’s happiness.” But ask anyone about their careers advice at school and words such as “awful” or “worse than useless” are often used. Sometimes Take part in the Employability Survey for a chance to win an iPad Air — at telegraph.co.uk/discoverwhatmatters Teachers, students and parents can all have a say in changing school support for jobseekers, says Helena Pozniak Sign up and help transform careers advice Sample survey questions for parents In association with Lloyds Banking Group How often does your child ask you questions regarding their career? How well do you think your child knows their own strengths? Would you want your child to have a job that enables them to use their strengths, or a job that pays them a good salary? In an ideal world, what would you want your child to do after leaving school?

Alex Bussey, 23, who works as a digital marketer (or SEO writer) for Pinpoint Designs, says: “I really wish my careers advisers had done more to familiarise themselves with different opportunities available today.” He graduated in English literature from the University of Leeds after being advised to get a traditional academic degree, with careers such as journalism or teaching cited. But he says: “I’d have gained far, far more useful skills by specialising early… I never explored my options until after graduation, losing precious time. I do wish someone had told me a more focused career route would drastically increase my chances of landing a good role.”

Hannah Ashley, 30, now an account manager at PR agency Manifest London, remembers feeling at sea after an unsatisfactory brush with careers advice. “It was atrocious. I had one interview with a careers lady when I was 14 and that was the only help I got throughout my schooldays. I was completely at a loss – I told her what I thought I was good at and where my interests lay. I desperately wanted help or insights, some idea of the routes I could take, but I got nothing. It was so unhelpful. It was quite by chance I applied to the University of Brighton, which actually worked out well for me.”

But children also need more than specific guidance, says Sonita Alleyne, mother of a 10-year-old son and the founder of the school career resource Yes Programme.

She says that secondary school students also need to learn about themselves — from taking risks, becoming self-reliant and persevering. They also need to see enough of the world of work to understand how their learning connects with it, particularly when learning subjects such as maths, science or history. “Perennial questions, which have been the bane of teachers’ lives, are, ‘Why am I learning this?’ and, ‘What good will it do me?’

“Children deserve answers before disengagement sets in. It’s all about context and showing where different subjects can lead.” She says that more chances to speak to employers or those who have just entered the workforce will help; job information needs to be updated to remain relevant. About 70pc of children turn to parents for careers advice and 57pc ask their teachers, a survey of pupils aged 11-16 shows, confirming that background still plays a large role in determining children’s future. And the research by the Association of Colleges and Find a Future also showed most children still wanted to work in traditional roles such as doctor or teacher and seemed unaware of new opportunities and sectors opening up.

Suzanne Maskrey is acting chief executive of Brightside, a charity that matches mentors from the likes of the health service, engineering sector and other professions online with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. She says: “Some parents can give great advice and great connections, but it’s unequal. A load of young people have potential and ability but don’t know what they need to get into careers they might have been brilliant at.”

About 15,000 pupils have already been mentored online through Brightside’s 12-week structured programme, and there has been heartening feedback from students who say they have achieved more than they ever believed they could. Ms Maskrey says that fundamentally teenagers require three basic elements for career success: “They need connections with people who can help them find work, they need to know what’s out there and they need inspiration – someone who’s already done what they’re aspiring to do.”

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