Maximising Student Success – The Role of Schools, Businesses and the Government

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Our role at Thales Learning and Development is to help employees from every sector, every background and every stage of their career to enhance their potential. But while we work predominantly with adults already in work we, just like many other businesses, recognise the ever present need to quip the younger generation with the skills to excel in their careers, whatever it is they choose to do. It is for this reason that we were delighted to accept an invitation to attend and present at the ‘Progression – Maximising Student Success’ event on 11th July 2016.   The annual event, hosted this year by local school, Burgess Hill Girls and organised by Unifrog is a day of discussion, exploration and innovation. The focus is on how we as a business, in collaboration with government bodies, schools and higher education facilities can help young people achieve more and make better decisions when it comes to their career path.  

It’s not an easy question to answer, and it’s one with many different possible solutions, but one of the key outcomes from the day was the need to recognise that times are changing. The skills that are required today are vastly different to those needed ten years ago, the tools young people have available to them are extensive, the sources they seek advice from are no longer limited to careers advisors and their parents, and the development and career paths open to them are much more diverse than for previous generations. Many of us instinctively know this information to be true, and yet the way we support young people remains largely unchanged, and in order to better equip our students with the skills they need, it is largely us (businesses, parents, schools and the government) that need to change.   We are expecting the UK’s youth to adapt to the needs of the changing economy but without telling them how to get there.

Some of the key areas of discussion during this year’s event were around supporting young people to really explore their options, helping them to recognise the wealth of skills they already possess and how to use these to their advantage, encouraging the use of new tools and methods to develop skills and decide on the right path, and what businesses, schools and the government need to do to help.

For many students the information they are provided with regarding their options for the future is far from comprehensive, and this is a key area that needs to change. The mission of Unifrog is to help schools support students in understanding and assessing the full range of options including university, apprenticeships, and school leaver programmes amongst others. By encouraging students to consider all of the options available to them, they believe that it will enable a generation of workers who are embarking on careers that are better matched to their interests and skills.

In addition to this, few students are adequately tutored in how to maximise their chances of success when applying for places at university, apprenticeships or job roles. The issue of personal statements was one of particular focus, and emphasis was placed on helping students recognise the skills they already possess and being able to demonstrate this on application forms. Often when applying for positions at university or work roles, young people assume that having the experience and expertise is what is required, when in reality, most organisations are more interested in behaviours and attitudes. Few young people realise that activities such as being part of a sporting team, having a part time job, or taking part in extra-curricular activities equips them with the fundamental skills to succeed in further education and in the workplace. It is therefore imperative that schools support this self-awareness, higher education facilities promote on-going skills development, and that businesses make it clear how important these behaviours and attitudes are to achieve success in the workplace.    

student key successFortunately there are more tools and resources available to young people than ever before; in terms of choosing the best options for them the internet is one of the most valuable resources alongside tools such as Unifrog. One of the other topics discussed during the event was the use of Massive Online Open Courses (a.k.a MOOCs) and how these can be used to help prepare students for their future career, develop skills and knowledge, and offer them a snapshot experience of a particular course or subject. Some of these are tools that were not available even ten years ago, and as such are not often encouraged by teachers, parents or schools, simply due to the fact they are unfamiliar with them. It is for this reason that exploration of some of these tools and how they can benefit young people is so important; the truth is that equipping young people with the means to achieve success requires a collaborative effort, and it is only by sharing the information, exploring the tools and understanding what is available, that those supporting students can do so more effectively.

Whether it is the implementation of tools such as Unifrog to explore options, the use of MOOCs to help prepare students for the next phase of the development, an investigation as to what new routes of learning (e.g. the different levels of apprenticeships) are available, or simply helping young people to uncover the skills they already possess and how to capitalise on these; there is a lot that schools, parents, businesses and the government can do to promote student success. We just have to start doing it.