Education: The key to success

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If career options are leaving your child in a spin, fear not. We asked the experts for their tips on narrowing down the options.

Moreton Hall Centenary Business Lunch.
Guest speaker Zanny Minton Beddoes with some of the Sixth Fo

Moreton Hall Centenary Business Lunch. Guest speaker Zanny Minton Beddoes with some of the Sixth Form girls. - Credit: Stuart Bingham

Almost half of all parents are unaware of the range of options open to young people turning 18 and more than half don’t fully understand the long-term implications for their children’s careers.

Those findings, from a recent study by Ernst & Young, are not so surprising given the face that 40% of jobs weren’t thought of 10 years ago.

But how do we help young people find their way to the right career? Dr Kate Daubney,

Careers Fellow at Shrewsbury School, says teenagers considering higher education must ask themselves if it is really for them.

“A university degree can be a huge asset, but it’s not for everyone,” says Dr Daubney. “How much do you really love studying? Are you fascinated by your chosen subject? University Open Days are fun, but go prepared to ask questions. Research course content so you can be specific.

“Vocational courses offer a stepping stone to particular careers such as marketing, business and IT. But keep your options open professionally with broad work experience.”

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For those who fancy a salary and professional qualifications, Dr Daubney suggests School Leaver Programmes in careers such as accountancy, finance, retail, science and engineering. “You aren’t committing yourself to a forever career, just a great start.

Don’t just think of the salary: compare what programmes offer in terms of length, progression, work variety and qualifications. Professional experience is worth much more in any future salary discussion.”

Dave Ruck, Head of Careers and Higher Education Guidance at St Edward’s in Cheltenham, says the increase in tuition fees and no guarantee of employment afterwards means that students are putting more thought and consideration into their options beyond school.

His top tips are:

• If planning to go on to study at university, opt for a course you are passionate about as you are more likely to do well – many graduate employers prefer better results.

• Consider various providers for your course and do your research. Visit the UNISTATS website to compare course data and make the most of open day visits.

• The UCAS application cannot be completed overnight. Ensure drafts of the dreaded Personal Statement are checked by school or college staff.

• If taking a year out, make sure the time is spent doing something worthwhile. Gain work experience, travel with purpose or earn money – don’t just swan about.

• Consider different pathways to get to where you want to go. Higher Apprenticeships, School Leaver Programmes and Sponsored Degrees all offer alternative routes to professional qualifications – and you can earn while you learn.

“There are many, many routes available to young people beyond school and college,” said Mr Ruck. “It can seem quite daunting. It is important that plenty of research is carried out and advice sought from the relevant people. Ultimately, students should seek to make the most of the opportunities and information available, and follow whichever pathway is right for them.”

Getting to know yourself is key to success. Evidence suggests that academic qualifications count for just 50% of a young person’s ability to do a job well, with the remaining 50% made up of character, focus, persistence and ability to cope with failure, to make connections and to think critically.

At Moreton Hall the careers advisers suggest psychometric tests, such as the Morrisby or Futurewise New Generation profiles. They are helpful for identifying strengths and suggesting possible careers of interest.

Many schools stage career days. Moreton Hall holds an annual Careers Convention for Years 11 to 13 which sees some 50 delegates from universities, colleges, and career areas in the school for a day to speak to the girls individually and to hold a series of talks. The motto of the Moreton Hall careers advises is “Take pride in how far you have come; Have faith in how far you can go”.

Westonbirt School staged an Inspiring Women day for year 12 and sixth form girls which include a critical thinking workshop and seminar. Speakers included Lettie McKie, Education Manager for Dulwich Picture Gallery, Victoria Inskip, Associate Director, Savills, Jo Ogilvy Consultant, Saxton Bampfylde and Heather Wheelhouse, accountant for Baker Tilly.

Student Beth Motley said: “It was a fantastic insight to further education and alternative routes. All the speakers inspired me and I will take their advice away with me.”

There is no short cut to research. Ask questions to members of your family and family friends about their working life – what do they do, do they enjoy it, why did they go into the career area and how did they go about it?

But take note. Don’t always rely on well-intended parents and friends whose information may be out of date. It’s always a good idea to speak directly to professionals currently in the sectors you are interested in. They will be able to explain what options are open and how changes in the economy could impact on that career path by the time you come to look for a job.

Moreton Hall suggests doing work experience relevant to a career area you are interested in exploring – it can give a good insight into a career, provide motivation to study hard or help you discover that the career is not for you. It also provides valuable additions to the CV.

Volunteering can also provide lots of useful new skills and give an insight into different career options. It will also look good on the CV.

Don’t forget the importance of networking, says Dr Daubney. “Remember, it’s not just who you know among family and friends, but who they know. Be ready to tell people what you’re interested in, and always be interested in them.”


This article is from the September 2014 issue of A+ Education