Since 2011 career education and guidance has been under attack in England. Politicians like Michael Gove have argued that there was no need for any kind of professional support for young people's careers. Instead, employers could do it all on a voluntary basis. This has been regrettable as it has meant that young people have lost access to any professional support for their education and career choices.
The announcement of some new resources for the area by Nicki Morgan just before Christmas provided a much needed redress to Gove's policy of "careers-on-the-cheap". However, Morgan's announcement of a new careers company to help broker relationships between schools and employers only scratches the surface of what is needed.
Employer involvement in schools is critical. So is access to career guidance professionals with a knowledge of how young people make decisions and what is happening in the labour market. However, it is putting together these different elements, along with a career education programme, work experience and other support that is needed that is really challenging for schools. Schools need someone to lead careers, just as they need someone to lead other curriculum areas, and normally this leadership role falls to a teacher.
At the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) we have just published a new report with Teach First which looks at the role of teachers in supporting young people's careers. We argue that teachers can be hugely influential on young people's careers and that they should be properly trained for this responsibility.
Teachers are trusted adults who young people turn to when they have problems and when they want to talk over their aspirations. Teachers need to know how to have these conversations in ways that support young people to pursue a range of career options.
Teachers also have an important role when they are teaching. There is huge value in being able to link the subjects that are studied in the curriculum to the careers that they might lead to. This can be motivating for young people and help them to see the relevance of their learning. There is also value in schools organising dedicated career education lessons that explicitly address the skills and knowledge that young people need.
Finally, the leadership of careers within a school is critical. Leading careers is a challenging, but rewarding job. Teachers should see the leadership of careers as an opportunity to make a difference to students and progress their own careers.
If we are going to bring about this kind of change in the role of teachers in career learning we need to increase the focus on career and employability learning in both initial teacher education and teachers' professional development. Government has an important role in signalling the importance of this area and needs to spell this out far more clearly in new statutory guidance.
Leading careers work in a school is a critical role which requires the upskilling and recognition of teachers who take it on. If we can develop impassioned careers champions in all of our schools we can develop a truly world class career development system.
Working with Teach First we are calling for a coordinated effort across society to train and empower teachers, putting them at the heart of careers education in schools. Echoing growing concerns from across education and business, the charity is warning that without this, careers education will remain fragmented and ineffective.