All young people are interested in their work futures, and many schools provide some form of career advice, but few schools give the opportunity for students to meet face-to-face with people with different jobs in potentially interesting sectors.

Young people are known to be especially attentive to the views of professionals they come into contact with in educational settings, and overwhelmingly agree that contacts help in career decision-making (Education & Employers Taskforce, 2012). 

So, what could help young people enter the labour market successfully? 

CAREER WORKOUT

In Milton Keynes, UK, our education charity, Worktree has been piloting a scheme called ‘Career WorkOut’ involving all 11-18 year olds in three secondary schools. In a one-hour session, a group of 30 students meet and interview eight volunteer work guests in a carousel of seven to eight minute conversations, three to four students sitting with one employer at a time then rotating to another.   

Career WorkOut is effective, and just as importantly, replicable. We believe any teacher anywhere can use it to help his/her students think about their work future.

Between September 2015 and March 2016, 2,832 young people have met and interviewed 572 work guests. Using data from student feedback immediately before and after the sessions, we have observed a 19 per cent increase in students’ confidence in career decision-making, a 23 per cent increase in their confidence talking to unfamiliar adults and an eight per cent increase in their commitment to learning and achieving.

'I learnt many new ideas in order for me to achieve my future goals and how to benefit from the experiences offered to me,' said one of our 16-year-old students. 

Tony Nelson, Head Teacher of The Hazeley Academy said, ‘Feedback from our students and staff strongly suggest that Career WorkOut sessions have had a dramatic positive impact on student aspirations, personal vision and drive. In over two decades in education I have not come across a more effective programme for achieving these goals across such a wide range of students for so minimal investment in terms of time and money.’

We also observed high levels of satisfaction among employee volunteers, with 62 per cent strongly agreeing they felt valued (99 per cent agreed) and 49 per cent strongly agreeing ‘I now feel more positive about my work’ (99 per cent agreed), suggesting potential worker productivity gains for the employer. 

Doing Career WorkOut sessions helps me come out of my core processes, gives a completely different environment, makes me realise who inspired me and encourages a different perspective.

- ANDY PERRY, SENIOR MANAGER OF NATWEST BANK

Since Career WorkOut requires work guests to commit only one hour, nearly all state a willingness to do it again, enabling schools to develop deeper and more productive relationships with local employers.

Career WorkOut has proven effective in Uganda, China and India, as well as in the UK.  It really isn’t difficult.  There are two main ingredients:

  • Recruiting volunteer work guests, ideally at least eight for a group of 30 students.  Work guests can be colleagues, people working in businesses nearby, friends or relatives – it doesn’t matter what work status they hold, just that they speak authentically about their personal experience of work.
  • Facilitating the one-hour Career WorkOut session so that students take the lead in asking questions about guests’ jobs, and guests feel comfortable to give authentic answers.

Our vision for our home town, Milton Keynes, is that Career WorkOut will operate in every secondary school – just one one-hour session per year for every age group, interviewing eight different guests each time – so that all students meet and interview 50 work guests before they leave school.

In Milton Keynes schools, Worktree recruits the guests and facilitates the sessions.  But, we have heard many stories of schools and teachers elsewhere doing it themselves.

Try it yourself!  Your students will find it engaging and will feel more confident in their study decisions following their exposure to the experiences of others who have experienced real work.  To find out more about how we did it visit the Worktree website.

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