This article was written by David Andrews and myself and originally published on the Trotman Indigo website to announce the publication of The Careers Leader Handbook. In it we discuss the publication of the handbook and why we think that the development of the concept of careers leadership has been so important.
Why careers matter
Our careers ensure that we can put food on the table, but they are also where we enact our values (or at least try to), where we participate in our communities, help others, achieve our goals and dream our dreams. They are not lived in a simple straight line, but rather built like crazy paving which allows us to move forwards, but also sideways and backwards.
Careers are not just important to individuals, they also matter for families, communities and societies. Where people are able to effectively manage their careers it helps governments to ensure that the education system works effectively and that the skills we develop in learning are useful in the workplace. Putting it simply, careers matter for everybody’s livelihood and wellbeing, and what is more they underpin the effective functioning of education, the labour market and society.
It is time for careers education
Given the importance of our careers, it is strange that many people spend very little time thinking about them. Although in some ways this is hardly surprising, as we spend so little time devoted to careers education at school and college. The possessive apostrophe, trigonometry, the oxbow lake and the Tudor kings all rightfully have an enduring place in the curriculum. But learning about the different educational routes available, the range of occupations and sectors that make up the labour market and considering how you choose a job, secure it and do well in it are typically pushed to the margins of education.
We believe that it is time for a change and that in fact we are already seeing this change starting to take place. Across the world there are calls to bring the worlds of education and employment into closer dialogue. This is not about turning the education system into a production line for employment. Rather, it is about ensuring that young people emerge from the education system with the skills and knowledge that enable them to critically participate in post-compulsory education, in working life, and to become the workers, leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens of the future.
If we are going to have high quality careers education in every school and college we need someone to lead it. Careers education doesn’t happen by magic, it needs someone to plan it, deliver it and make sure that it is working well. In the current climate, it also needs someone to fight the corner for careers education and convince everyone in the school or college that it is important and central to what the school or college is trying to achieve. This person is a careers leader!
What is a careers leader?
Careers leaders are people who have been given the responsibility and accountability for the delivery of a school’s or college’s careers programme. They are involved in:
- planning, implementing and quality assuring a careers programme for the school;
- managing its delivery;
- networking with external partners, including employers;
- and coordinating the contributions of teachers support staff and other members of the school.
A good careers leader must be able to manage up, contributing to strategy and influencing their bosses, whilst ensuring that a school-wide or college-wide team deliver on this strategy. Careers leaders need to be a mix of pedagogue, politician, diplomat and dreamer to bring about a careers programme in their school or college. At times they also have to be chief cook and bottle washer to make sure that things get done. But, a career leader can’t be solely responsible for a school or college’s careers programme, they have to become an inspirational leader and gather a team around them.
The Careers Leader Handbook
We published the first edition of The Careers Leader Handbook in 2018. At that time, the idea of careers leadership was a new one, albeit one with some long historical roots. But things moved quickly, and over the past four or five years we have seen the role becoming embedded into the English school system. We have also seen a lot of interest in careers leaders from other countries.
While the position of careers leadership has been strengthening, there have also been one or two other things going on in the world. In the UK we’ve had a new government and five (so far) new ministers of education. This has led to changes in the statutory guidance, in Ofsted inspections and in the services provided by The Careers & Enterprise Company. The evidence base has also continued to develop and evolve. Finally, and probably most importantly, we’ve also experienced the pandemic, a lot of economic ups and downs and the war in Ukraine. All this change in the education system and beyond led us to conclude that it would be useful to refresh the handbook.
A second edition
Our aim in creating a second edition of The Careers Leader Handbook was to ensure that we could provide a comprehensive guide for new and existing careers leaders in the new normal in which we are all now living. As we went through the book we made too many changes to list here. Overall, the book has grown by 16 pages.
The book has been updated to reflect the changes in the policy, educational and economic context in which careers leaders are now working. We have described the new and additional forms of support, resources and other help that are now available to careers leaders and reflected on new evidence and what we have learnt about careers leadership over the last five years. In addition we have added some new material designed to make the book more useful to careers leaders working in SEND schools and to people outside of England. And of course, we have also taken the opportunity to double-check and update all of the links, resources and books that we recommend and respond to feedback and suggestions from readers of the first edition.
We hope that you enjoy the second edition and that it is useful to people who are taking up their role as a career leader for the first time, as well as to those who have been doing the job for a while. We want to say a thank you to the thousands of careers leaders who have bought and used the first edition of the book.
We hope that the second edition will be even more useful to you, and that it will inspire a whole new generation of careers leaders to transform the lives of the young people that they work with.