“Something that’s quite striking is the seemingly endless supply of choice open to young people. This is something that can be daunting but should be exciting – it just requires being active and open to change. However, pupils need to engage in research and be proactive.
“Back in my day, the traditional route to higher education after school was through university. Now with modern apprenticeships, you can get your degree with real-world job experience which is incredibly important. I know that PwC has teamed up with Queens and the students will get both – without accruing that burden of debt which is a massive incentive for them.
“Another advantage of this route is that it gives the great flexibility: your options are still open. For example, if you plan to stay with a firm, an apprenticeship sets you up. The first pupil we had on the PwC school leaver programme is now fully chartered, and has fantastic experience on audit teams, after four years. Yet if you’ve got intentions of moving elsewhere and changing careers then a degree will help you to move around.
“Of course, there still needs to be a wider recognition. For example, something that the inspectorate look at in a school is the progression rate of its pupils to higher education. I’m pleased our principal has always supported alternative routes to uni and employment but it can be difficult to offer careers guidance when there’s limited knowledge of the varied opportunities now available.
“Personally I’m quite glad to be working now, in what is considered a fairly secure job. The world our young people are entering is changing rapidly. When you read into the impact of emerging technologies, AI and automation you can see how traditional ways of thinking about work are becoming redundant. The idea of having one job your whole life isn’t realistic anymore – or at least won’t be for our pupils. That means the next generations have really got to develop transferable and varied skills… and a lot of resilience too!
“They’ll need to be more creative, develop complex problem-solving skills, technological literacy, critical thinking and collaborate with teams, often across different cultures. And those skills are already in demand, so this is something that needs to be addressed at an earlier stage in children’s educational development.
“I do think our education system has become too exam driven with an increased focus on final outcomes. Teachers are doing all they can to help pupils develop a range of work place relevant skills and qualities. Group work, collaboration, interaction, negotiation, judgement and decision-making are all promoted in schools but too often, opportunities for cross-curricular work at Key Stages 4 and 5 are restricted by the time pressures of controlled assessments and teaching to content heavy specifications. Such pressures risk limiting the development of cognitive flexibility and concept mapping… and then employers say that students today lack many employability skills.
“I think it would be really positive to see industry get involved more but it isn’t as simple as that. The problem isn’t just funding – you have to take pupils out of their regular school day to attend events, and you lose valuable teaching time. We also see the impact of a lack of training for specialist Careers teachers; due to budget restrictions most schools will have teachers from a range of backgrounds teaching Careers, and whilst they work extremely hard to be properly conversant with Careers information, this won’t be their specialism.
“As teachers, we only want the best for our students. We wouldn’t be in teaching if we didn’t. So if we have to work within these restrictions then I’d like to see us offered more guidance and professional development to help young people make the right decisions for their future. It is great to see PwC partnering with mTech Academy in a programme that not only offers a great opportunity of experiential learning for participating pupils, but also offers CPD activities for teachers throughout the year. Should the programme prove successful it would be great to see it available on a much larger scale.”