Diana Cree, Director External Relations and Communications at Lancing College, discusses how to support young people in a challenging jobs market and enhance their career opportunities

Employers have reduced graduate jobs by 12% to cope with the pandemic, according to the latest Institute for Employment Studies (IES) research. This makes it important that schools look even more closely at how they support pupils during their preparation for university and – equally important – for success in the future workplace.

Traditionally, many parents thought of an independent school as a springboard for entry to a good university and thereafter entry to the jobs market with relative ease. Today, with ever increasing uncertainty, the role of schools must also be to equip young people with the skills and self-knowledge to take a flexible approach to achieving their career goals. They should be encouraged to make the most of school connections and to use their soft skills to fit confidently into a work environment.

At Lancing, success in supporting pupils to reach the universities of their choice is an important part of the final two years. A glance at our ‘destinations’ publication demonstrates that our pupils go to university to study an unbelievable range of degrees. Advice to pupils from any visiting university will always be to choose a programme that interests them. Three or four years of self-motivated study is a very long time if you have little enthusiasm for the topic!  At Lancing, we firmly believe that if pupils are encouraged to study what they are passionate about, this will maintain their interest, ensure they make the most of their studies and be able to talk confidently to employers about their time at university.

Lancing College Lesson Copy
It is helpful for schools to help students explore their career aptitudes as well as their interests

While a degree such as medicine may lead directly into a career, a recent Higher Education Statistics Association (HESA) study found that less than 50% of graduates report that their degree subject was important for their entry into employment. The role of schools, therefore, needs to start early. It means helping pupils understand their individual aptitudes and interests, and where their natural career options might lie. Alongside this, schools can help develop the basics in work-ready skills, encouraging curiosity and an appetite to develop further.

“Today, schools must equip young people with the skills and self-knowledge to take a flexible approach to achieving career goals”

Pupils at Lancing receive their own personalised Morrisby career profile and specialist careers advice in the Fifth Form, followed by a careers fair covering different careers options. In the Sixth Form, options are explored through Careers in Depth workshops, talks by external speakers, workplace visits, tutor support and links with OL/parent professional networks. This past term alone over 45 OLs and parents have been involved in supporting pupils through various activities drawn together under the ‘My Future’ programme, linking expertise across HE, careers, PSHE, tutors and OL/parent networks.

Alongside structured events, the wide range of house/year group and whole school activities, outreach and co-curricular clubs provide opportunities for pupils to develop their communication, leadership, team working and problem-solving skills – all vital for job applications and success in the workplace in years to come. Outside school, pupils are encouraged to use their holidays to seek out opportunities through work shadowing and work experience. Pupils receive assistance in this through workshops on CV building and, in the Sixth Form, through professional networking alongside one-to-one support from their tutors.

Connections don’t stop after Sixth Form – as OLs, our pupils have access to the online portal Lancing Connected where they can network with over 1,000 former pupils spread around the world working in a host of different areas.

Further reading: Is there a careers aspiration gap?