National Careers Week (NCW) is a diary fixture the Adviza team loves. What could be more worth cheering than a week dedicated to educating young people about the wealth of career options available to them? For this year's NCW we asked our Chief Executive Katharine Horler to share her thoughts on what good careers advice looks like in these challenging times. 

Entering the world of work is a challenge for young people at any time, but the pandemic means the future of many sectors is unknown. Nobody saw the pandemic coming and we will all have to work with uncertainty for a while. Uncertain times create fear, but they don’t have to stop young people from taking positive actions in their search for a meaningful career, and that’s where sound careers advice can make a difference.

Good careers planning has always involved having a backup idea—plans A and B.

Careers guidance isn’t about telling an individual what to do with their life. It’s about helping them to recognise their needs, ambitions and skills and plan for an unknowable future, to recognise their strengths and understand how they can apply them in any context. Good careers planning has always involved having a backup idea—plans A and B. If your first-choice career is in an imperilled industry, it’s time to review – permanently or temporarily - your choices and look seriously at gaining skills and knowledge in other areas, or assessing the transferability of your skills. Advisers understand and can facilitate this.

How do young people gain valuable experience?

Employers recognise that it’s hard to gain work experience right now, so it’s important for young people to take advantage of any opportunity to demonstrate their skills and value. Voluntary work, short term schemes such as Kickstart, apprenticeships and vocational education or training looks good on a CV and gives young people something to talk about in interviews.

There are lots of opportunities within Adviza’s project portfolio for young people to gain work skills, grow their confidence and add value to communities, all of which looks great on a CV. The Prince’s Trust Team programme, for example, includes opportunities for young people to do valuable work within their communities while gaining skills and confidence. The pandemic doesn’t have to mean an end to this. For example, young people could Zoom with elderly care home residents to provide company during lockdown; our project teams are endlessly inventive and forever seeking new ways to connect young people with both communities and educators.

They are also knowledgeable about local labour markets and training opportunities, so they’re able to help young people put a concrete, individual plan together that takes into account their areas of interest, but also strong alternative options and transferrable skills.

How can we better support young people today?

In some ways, the pandemic has led to a leap forward in accessibility; many young people appreciate being able to Zoom with their careers adviser when they need to, and we’ve been quick to embrace technology in our various services and contracts where mentoring, feedback and coaching means accessibility is crucial. Networking technology gives careers advisers an added dimension: it’s critical that we put the experience of young people first, and these approaches make us more accessible.

Virtual networking is great for parents too, because we can run webinars where they can learn about new opportunities and new qualifications for young people. It’s important that parents share the sense of optimism we encourage in their children and some of that is about making sure they are informed about choices and support mechanisms.

Not everyone is familiar with the Kickstart Scheme—which provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16-to-24-year-olds on Universal Credit—or the new T-level qualification, a vocational, two-year qualification equivalent to three A levels. Many are unaware of the breadth of apprenticeships today—an excellent form of education for anyone in almost any field, and a way of gaining qualifications up to and including a Master’s degree, while you earn a wage. There are worlds of opportunity and some of our work is about bringing that to people’s attention.

Confidence: the biggest differentiator?

I can’t overstate the importance of programmes like the Prince’s Trust Team, Reach Up and many others in our remit, in helping to develop young people’s confidence. These and other programmes we support in our regions arm people with essential life- and work skills which make a huge difference to their all-round competence for work and their credibility in interviews and interpersonal situations.

Many of the young people we work with start out with no confidence, and developing their confidence for the rigours of the workplace is one of the most valuable things we can do for them.

No best route

Careers advisers have always understood that there is no single “best” route into work for young people, and the pandemic has thrown this into sharp relief. There are many ways for young people to gain opportunities, skills and experience, and many equally effective forms of education and training.

Education and training opens doors, and we’re here to educate young people about the opportunities that still exist today. I’m writing this blog to mark National Careers Week, but my passion to support people in creating opportunities for themselves never changes.

Happy National Careers Week!