The provision of careers advice to children has been completely revamped, disregarding some of the best loved practices many of us are familiar with. Sarah Todd takes a closer look at what this means for attracting new blood into agriculture.
Careers teachers, as many of us will remember them, corduroy-jacketed with an office at the end of the school corridor, no longer exist. Rather than a permanent full-time member of staff, schools are now required by the Department for Education to name a designated ‘careers leader’.
The norm is for this to fall to an existing member of staff, but teaching unions object, saying a careers adviser is a professional role in its own right, not something to be shifted sideways onto already over-stretched teaching staff.
The two-week work experience many children were previously encouraged to undertake is also largely a thing of the past. No longer part of the curriculum, it is just left to individual schools whether they want to run it, with many deciding against.
It seems the low uptake of work experience programmes is a combination of the extra work involved in co-ordinating placements and the lost lesson time of taking children off-timetable.
It was the then-coalition Government’s education secretary Michael Gove who made the policy change during 2011, instead introducing eight careers provision guidelines, known as the ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’ (see below).
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union (formerly the National Union of Teachers), told Farmers Guardian:
“It was incredibly short-sighted of Mr Gove to get rid of careers education in schools and grimly ironic at a time when he was also concerned about high levels of youth unemployment.
No adequate replacement has been forthcoming, meaning students are being let down year-on-year by a complacent Government.
“The Gatsby Benchmarks of good career guidance are an excellent framework, but their implementation is patchy and under-resourced.
“Government must urgently review the availability of independent, impartial careers advice and guidance.”
To read more about the #ThisIsAgriculture campaign, visit #ThisIsAgriculture Hub
Known as the ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’, the highly regarded system originated from research carried out by the Gatsby Foundation in 2013.
Commissioned by Lord Sainsbury and Sir John Holman, the research looks at key elements, such as cost per school and economic benefit of careers advice.
Its findings were made after exploring international evidence from the Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Canada, Finland and Ireland.
The eight benchmarks are:
So where does this leave introducing agriculture as a careers option to today’s youngsters? Josh Payne, NFU education manager, says the agricultural industry should be thinking outside the box rather than looking at the careers advice of yesteryear through rose-tinted spectacles.
He says: “Careers teachers and careers fairs do not have a big influence on children’s chosen career paths.
Do any of us know a pupil who has sat in a careers interview or come away from a careers fair actually having had a lightbulb moment?
“Much bigger influences are parents, teachers, peers and businesses becoming engaged directly with schools.
“School farms and initiatives such as FaceTime a Farmer, where agriculture comes to life rather than being a paragraph in a boring careers leaflet, are making a huge difference when it comes to introducing a new generation to agriculture.”
Feedback from Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf), which is behind Facetime a Farmer, includes comments from a class teacher at Anderton Park Primary School, a large, inner-city school in Birmingham.
Before the FaceTime a Farmer sessions, only a handful of the 400 children knew where meat came from. Only one child had heard of the word agriculture. Now youngsters are engaged and look forward to their regular farmer updates.
A total of 91 per cent of teachers who received Leaf training while students are incorporating food, farming or the countryside into their lessons, with 74 per cent going on to share what they learned with colleagues.
The introduction of the Careers and Enterprise Company (the agency that now works in partnership with schools and colleges) aims to link young people with employers by providing training and support to careers leaders as well as establishing careers hubs across the country.
The agency runs a popular ‘Give an hour’ campaign, getting people from different businesses to mentor and share experiences to school and college children.
Among those involved is Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Martin, who is also part of the FaceTime a Farmer initiative.
He believes as little as one 10-minute call every fortnight between a farmer and a school is enough to address the knowledge gap effectively, adding that the mobile phone call gets around the lack of spare time and health and safety worries that put many farmers off hosting traditional school farm visits.
It also has a network of what are known as cornerstone employers committed to working with the wider business community to ensure young people are prepared and inspired for the world of work.
Cornerstone employers from the world of agriculture include Yeo Valley, the NFU and nutritional ingredients supplier Cambridge Commodities.
An overwhelming majority of business leaders want work experience to be made compulsory in schools again.
The 2017 survey, commissioned by training provider Arch Apprentices, revealed:
However, 1,000 parents with children aged 14-18, who were surveyed for the research, were less enthusiastic about a return to compulsory work experience.
An increasing number of parents are paying for private careers advice.
It is a big growth sector, with many people returning to seek independent careers advice at key moments in both their private and working lives.
A session often involves a pre-interview online test, then seeing the coach to analyse results. Fees vary, but often fall between £70-£100 per session.
Cornerstone employers invest time and resources to benefit schools and young people with activities such as mentoring and fundraising. The brief also involves recruiting further businesses and acting as an ambassador for the school.
Importantly, a cornerstone employer can be any size.
The Careers and Enterprise Company unveiled a report last month which showed the number of schools and colleges running regular encounters with employers increased by 70 per cent, from less than one-third two years ago (31 per cent) to more than half this year (52 per cent).
Research has shown regular interactions with employers mean young people enjoy greater resilience and self-confidence. Claudia Harris, chief executive of the Careers and Enterprise Company, says:
“Business is at the heart of our new approach, creating real-life experiences and opportunities for young people, connecting them to the modern labour market and helping them imagine and plan for their futures.
“We know regular interaction with employers has a significant long-term impact on young people. They are less likely to be unemployed, likely to earn more and get better grades.
We are delighted with the progress to date and want to see things continue to improve in the years ahead.”
HERE are a few ideas on how you can get involved:
As part of National Careers Week, held in March, a video was launched showcasing agriculture at the cutting edge of modern technology and at the forefront of innovations in key areas, such as IT, forensics, engineering, automation and design.
Farmers Guardian has joined forces with 21 key industry stakeholders from across the farming sector to launch a new campaign, #ThisIsAgriculture, to promote careers in agriculture.
The challenge of recruiting is not a new one. Attracting new blood into the industry has always been an issue, with agriculture rarely sold as an exciting option into schools.
However, with the pace of technological change rapidly widening the skills gap and Brexit looming, the need to drive change within the industry has intensified greatly over recent years.
Building on the learning from the #ThisIsAgriculture survey, this initiative will work to educate the wider world about the wealth of opportunities available within the sector, as well as dispelling common myths about careers in agriculture.
We will also be collaborating with industry bodies and our industry partners to see where we can work together to shape the political agenda, drive educational reform and provide learning resources.
The campaign will also be sharing information with readers about how to attract – and retain – the right staff for farming businesses across the UK.