With 91% of students from independent schools going on to university in 2017, many parents will consider a private school education well worth the investment. While we certainly should applaud both schools and individuals for this achievement, this exceptionally high figure – set against a national average of 33% – raises a number of questions for the independent sector.
For those pupils who may not be suited to further study – either because they aren’t academically minded or simply don’t want to spend three further years in education – forcing them down the university path is rarely the right option. As principal at Quest Professional I often meet students who have completed two or more years at different universities before realising that higher education isn’t for them. Often this is down to a lack of awareness of other viable options. As a former teacher myself, I believe it is essential we make students aware of all the options open to them, giving them the best chance at succeeding down whichever pathway they’re best suited.
Improving existing careers education is a crucial step. Careers advisors, as well as classroom teachers, have a responsibility to make children aware of the many and varied options open to them after school, including apprenticeships, business courses, accounting or other professional qualifications. Alternatives for students keen to enter the business world without going to university are rarely discussed, with many young people assuming the only options outside of university are vocational qualifications. Changing this perception is a must for schools.
Careers advisors must also ensure there is a holistic approach to job searching, with training focused on preparing the individual for every stage of the process. Often schools encourage students to focus on preparing a good CV – certainly an important step, but far from the only preparation a young person needs to secure a job. Practical, work-based skills are essential and must be ingrained before students enter the workplace.
These skills include teaching students to be good team players, to communicate well and to develop their knowledge of different industry sectors and the key issues and themes that exist within them. Students entering a job interview with an idea of a company’s history, their unique selling points and an awareness of their main competitors will impress any interviewer.
Similarly, those young people with strong time management and communications skills will find it easier to enter the workplace and meet with success early in their careers. Strong presentation skills, audience awareness, the ability to communicate as part of a team and being able to summarise information concisely are important skills for all careers. Teaching students not to be chained to emails, to prioritise tasks and meet multiple deadlines is another important skill which cannot be gained solely through essay assignments.
Finally, positivity is an important skill to cultivate in school. This may sound like an easy or even meaningless skill to develop, however in my experience it is among the most sought after attributes in new candidates. Businesses want employees who not only take pride in their work but are enthusiastic and motivate others by making an environment a positive place to work. Furthermore, all businesses have their moments of stress and showing that you’re able to remain clear-sighted under pressure is important. It is inevitable that at some point in a young employee’s career they will face challenges and being able to take feedback on board positively and proactively is crucial.
For more on Quest Professional, please visit their website.