The Wonderful World of Work
Now is the time of year when the thoughts of senior students turn to the future and dreams of university or careers of their choice float across minds apparently untroubled by considerations regarding the quality of grades required for access. Clearly progression routes are very important, as are aspirations towards lives that are fulfilling and challenging, underpinned by employment that provides stimulation and adequate remuneration, preferably in the form of vast salary cheques. Whilst most staff are understandably focused on ensuring that final preparations for public examinations to enable students to realise their dreams there is also the recognition that, without dreams, where is the motivation to study in the first place?
The provision of good careers information and advice to students has always been a challenge and may become more so in the future with the imminent withdrawal of the Connexions Service. We have a very good record in this field, almost all of our leavers securing either jobs or further / higher education places, but the difficulty comes in keeping pace with the constantly changing nature of work. It has long been said that schools are preparing students for careers that, in most cases, don’t even exist yet, and the pace of change is increasing.
A glance at an 1881 survey where people were asked to list their “rank, profession or occupation” makes it clear that the job market has been ever changing. No student to whom I have spoken this year has indicated an ambition to be any of the following:
- Colourist of artificial fish
- Examiner of underclothing
- Invisible net maker
- Proprietor of midgets
- Turnip shepherd
although some staff may empathise with the person who listed their occupation as “running about”. I am not certain what careers advice was like in 1881 but doubt that there were as many choices for the vast majority of people as the above list may suggest.
Having a clear goal in life has many benefits and for those students set on a firm career path there will be all the support required. However, given the ever changing society in which we all exist, it is primarily the school’s job to provide all students with transferable skills and the best possible set of grades that will, in turn, provide the widest possible access to future prosperity. There could be little worse than spending an entire childhood preparing for a career as a fish-bender (1881 census) only to find that the public taste had changed to straight fish or discovering that aspiring to be a “gymnast to house painter” was not something likely to provide full employment for the many.