“School teachers and leaders are the backbone of career success in every young person setting out to achieve their ambitions.”

As a careers adviser who provides impartial job, training and study-related advice to students in UK secondary schools and colleges, my job has taken me to many educational establishments. In the course of delivering 1-on-1 career sessions and group workshops, I realised that students were sometimes unaware of important things and that there were issues holding students back that could be resolved quite easily. This article will highlight some of those areas and provide practical tips to help leaders and teachers support their students.


The need to go beyond a subject

There is a tendency for teachers to concentrate on teaching a given subject without explaining what sort of opportunities students can move on to. During presentations in many schools I have visited, I noticed students could not highlight the jobs they could progress to in the future with the subjects they were studying. Maths, for instance, would attract careers in software development, computer programming, engineering and so forth. Going beyond the curriculum to explain the benefits and opportunities that lie ahead is what creates the perfect vision for students. Here is a useful resource you can send to staff members to help support students match subjects to career opportunities: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree

Talent identification

Teachers have an important role in identifying talent among their students. Teachers spend a lot of time with their students at school, making it possible to carefully observe and spot talent. There is a need to leverage resources to milk those talents and encourage students to excel beyond school and college environments. Every single student has a set of skills and/or subjects they enjoy and do better than others. Identifying skills is the first and often the hardest step towards finding a job students will enjoy.

The need for a strong link with parents

Teachers cannot help their students to succeed in their career ambitions by working “alone”. There is a strong need to collaborate and work hand in hand with parents. During my 1-on-1 career guidance interviews, I noticed many students with problems spanning from their homes, yet their teachers weren’t aware of these issues. Parents are well versed with their children’s developmental history, interests and lifestyle, whereas teachers fully understand the students’ school performance. Parents and teachers can share their knowledge in a collaborative manner to help support career aspirations. Issues like lack of sleep at home, bad eating habits, bullying and domestic abuse continue to affect students’ performance in schools everyday. Strong links between teachers and parents can help resolve issues like these, and will also ensure transparency which is a key factor in many career-related problems among young people.

The need to become key advocates for students

Advocacy is so important for career success, especially for young students in schools and colleges. With many schools lacking financial and teaching resources, leaders have been left with no choice but to prioritise the limited funds available to them to run their establishments. This has led to the diminishing of vital school activities such as careers fairs, science fairs and employability events. Being good advocates for students can involve lobbying for more funds from stakeholders including the government, to ensure that vital career activities are provided to students to help bolster their chances of success. Good advocacy involves putting students’ needs at the centre of every decision being made to ensure that key career activities in schools are prioritised over other issues. Here is an article I found to be useful on advocacy: https://www.weareteachers.com/advocate-for-students/

Placing more emphasis on employability skills

Young people need employability skills that will make them competitive in the workplace. Excelling in school subjects alone will not be enough to help them succeed. Skills such as problem solving, resilience, communication, creativity and leadership are very important and will help tackle 21st century careers. Teachers and leaders need to place emphasis on encouraging students to develop crucial skills for career success. For instance, every student will have to sit an interview to be assessed for their next career step. Passing interviews will require having good communication and presentation skills, and time keeping. While teachers are dedicating their every effort to help their students excel in curriculum subjects, so must they also encourage and put in place mechanisms that will help learners to develop employability skills. Examples of mechanisms that could support skill development include:

  • Exposing students to open discussions in class
  • Encouraging students to take part in co-curricular activities like sports, music, dance and debating clubs.

Here is another resource that I found useful: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/applying-for-jobs/what-skills-do-employers-want