At our International Women’s day events last week, organised in partnership with North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Burnley Council, we asked 80 female college students and 80 senior women from a variety of industry sectors to debate the above subject.
To guide them, we set 5 questions which were discussed in groups of 8 and the findings were displayed and voted on, with each of the 80 delegates asked to vote for their top 3 answers.
Our findings were as follows:
We asked which was more important, choosing a career that suits your personal strengths or one that aligns itself to your highest marks at GCSE?
85% agreed that choosing a career that aligns to your passion will keep you motivated and help you succeed. A third of respondents felt that choosing subject options in school came at too early an age and does not take personal strengths into consideration.
We asked at what age should children start thinking about their future careers?
70% indicated that careers advice should start at key stage 2, with visits from local business owners seen as very important. Many also stated that our youngsters should not be forced into narrowing their field of focus too soon.
We asked whether work experience was important and how should young people access this?
85% said that connections between business and schools were vital, suggesting supervised mentoring schemes between business personnel and students, a variety of one day work experience visits and a website where students could be matched to local work experience opportunities.
We asked what had been the most helpful advice they had received so far regarding choosing a career?
Do something you enjoy, grasp opportunities, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to change your path, were the top answers here, all scoring almost equal numbers of votes, interestingly these were all direct quotes from our two inspirational speakers!
Finally, we asked
Who do you think should give careers advice?
82% agreed that young people should be exposed to industry professionals throughout their school years with mentoring, workshops and inspirational guidance being delivered by them on a regular basis. Many again stated here that work experience is vital for older children. Interestingly careers fairs and advice being given by teachers or careers advisers each received less than 5% of the votes cast.
Many of you reading the outcome of our debate will be thinking “there’s nothing really new here” and I might agree, but what was new for many of the girls who took part, was the opportunity to debate something they had a real interest in, with experienced and empathetic women from the world of work.
Many of the students who attended our event did not have peer groups or family who could advise and inspire, many had never attended anything before which was remotely like this debate - and the debate was just part of a programme filled with motivational sessions and inspirational group and one on one conversations, designed to promote self belief, confidence and communication.
The staff of Burnley college and Preston college, who kindly sponsored the events, said they had never held anything like them before and that the student feedback was amazing. http://vimeo.com/roleuk
What is amazing is what business and education can do when they work together and it is evident from our discussions that that is exactly what both the students and business want to see happening. What we need to actually make this happen is a coordinated approach to national implementation.
Lesley Burrows of the Job Junction http://thejobjunction.co.uk/ spoke at our events about the importance of entrepreneurial skills, self esteem and mentoring and as a result, 85% of the women who attended our two events have offered to mentor a student. We need more programmes like Lesley’s in schools across the UK. Chambers of Commerce are bridging the gap between business and education via their Young Chamber initiative http://www.youngchamber.com/young-chamber , the BCC’s recent work around young girls and STEM has resulted in their ‘Model for schools and business partnerships’ report http://www.britishchambers.org.uk/policy-maker/policy-reports-and-publications/bcc-report-a-model-for-school-and-business-partnerships.htmlwhich is part of a series of surveys which found that 88% of businesses do not think our education system prepares young people for work.
At the end of our 2 events, we were tired but totally on a high. We saw first hand, the difference that a few hours spent with senior leaders and business owners can make to student aspirations and we can not thank enough, the incredibly hard working college staff and teachers, who welcomed us so warmly.
So, I appeal to all of you reading this blog, contact me, or your local Chamber of Commerce or Job Junction and offer to mentor a student or provide a work experience place or school visit because our survey shows ……….. that’s what the students want!