education and careers
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New research has revealed that almost a third of British teenagers are worried that the next few years of their education may be a ‘waste of time’ and are unsure as to where their education and careers are heading

The new study of over 1000 13-16-year-olds also reveals that 66% of respondents believe league tables and academic grades to be the main focus of our current education system, as opposed to future careers (13%) or wellbeing (9%).

In addition, 54% of the students asked to say that their schools neglect to consider individual career ambitions, choosing instead to focus on the grades achieved.

This focus on academic achievement is having an alarming impact on young people’s futures – with 33% stating that they have no idea about what career path to take and 17% saying they have no idea about any options outside of traditional academic routes, such as A-Levels.

Over a quarter of students (26%) said that the education system is ‘not fit for purpose’ with a further 37% saying they weren’t sure.

When asked why they felt this to be the case, almost a third (32%) of respondents said there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to education, with a quarter (25%) saying it doesn’t fully cater to different learning needs, such as practical or visual learning. Therefore it is no surprise that 25% feel that the curriculum and teaching styles are ‘outdated’.

The research, commissioned by the Career Colleges Trust, also asked the 13-16-year-olds about GCSEs. 60% stated that their subject choices were ones they were likely to get the best grades in but don’t actually enjoy. Only 36% said they were confident that their choices were right for them and 13% admitted to dropping a subject for one in which they would get a better mark.

Ruth Gilbert/Bev Jones, Joint CEO of the Career Colleges Trust, says:

“The education system is frequently talked about and debated, but rarely do we ask the young people themselves about their own experiences. This research highlights the concerns that teenagers have about their education and career pathways – and more support is needed to help them plan their futures.

“Employers are facing skills gaps, yet young people aren’t aware of the many opportunities open to them. With schools focused on academic achievement, students are struggling to make key decisions about their futures and not getting the exposure to industry and work experience that they need in order to do this.

“Our network of Career Colleges work in partnership with industry to ensure that young people are getting access to employers – and being given a clear line of sight to the many potential careers on offer. This needs to happen in schools and colleges – and I would urge the Government to take notice of what 13-16 years are feeling in relation to their education.”

Lauren Polson (18) from Orpington joined London South East Colleges’ Hospitality, Food and Enterprise College when she was 14. She says:

“The findings of this research do not surprise me. Many of my friends still don’t know what they want to do career-wise and have spent time doing exams and courses that don’t interest them. More guidance is needed in schools and different options should be made more widely available – academic routes don’t suit everyone.

“I left school and came to college at the age of 14, as I was interested in studying hospitality and my school just didn’t offer this option. It was the right thing to do and I was able to do my GCSEs while also gaining vocational qualifications in hospitality and catering.

“Throughout my course I was given lots of opportunities to experience the real world of work, going on placements as well as experts coming in to give masterclasses and advice. I am now doing an apprenticeship at BR6 Restaurant and am much further ahead in my career than I would have been if I’d taken a more traditional route.”

Bev Jones, Joint CEO of the Career Colleges Trust

What can be done for students who feel that the traditional route of education isn’t right for them?

Many people are much better suited to a more practical style of learning and it’s important that there are pathways available that offer high-quality vocational education. Career Colleges, for example, are part of existing FE Colleges and offer employer-led curriculums. This means that local and national employers work with the colleges to create a curriculum that matches the requirements of industry, teaching relevant skills and preparing young people for real-life employment.

We are calling on Government to listen to the views of young people and provide them with more support when it comes to choosing and working towards career goals. Better guidance is needed to help inform teenagers about the many opportunities available to them and school needs to be about far more than simply passing exams. Work experience and employer engagement is key here, so young people can gain insight into different sectors and job roles.

Is the education system outdated?

The current education system is very much focused on academic achievement and as we know, this doesn’t reflect the talents and abilities of many people. We have skills shortages in many UK industries and more needs to be done to ensure we have the right training/education pathways to fill these gaps.

What needs to be done to rebalance it?

Perception of skills and vocational education needs to change – hopefully, the introduction of T-Levels will help this, providing a ‘gold standard’ of technical education, just like A Levels. More high-quality vocational options need to be made available and employers need to continue getting involved with schools and colleges. This will help ensure that every curriculum is relevant and focused on the end result of a successful career.

More investment is needed in careers advice, with industry experts on board to provide up to date and specialist advice about expanding industries.

Other perspectives

Future First responds to report by Career Colleges that education is not focused on careers
Responding to comments today (26th February, 2019) by Career Colleges that teenagers are unsure where their education is heading.

Matt Lent, CEO of Future First, said:

“Career Colleges is right to say that too many state school and college students are struggling to make key decisions about their futures and not getting the exposure to industry and work experience that they need.

“Students cannot be what they cannot see. It is vital schools and colleges prepare young people to enter the working world, raising their aspirations and broadening their career horizons so they are aware of the range of opportunities available to them.

“There is a lack of consistency in careers support which varies greatly from school to school, area to area. Future First believes in embedding systems and processes across the education sector to enable every young person to have access to relatable role models and exposure to diverse career options. Engaging alumni communities works so well because they are sustainable and diverse, while at the same time providing that key message that ‘people like me’ can be successful.”

Join in with a live discussion today (26th February 2019, 1 pm) 


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