Edge’s Digital Marketing Apprentice, Dexter, is on holiday this week, but we had some helping hands in the office today; Charlotte, aged 5, and Harry, aged 7.
We asked Charlotte and Harry what they might want to be when they grow up. Charlotte is clearly power hungry. Her first idea was that she would like to be the Queen, but given the nebulous nature of the qualifications required for the role – marriage certificate at Prince grade? level 5 in waving? – she reconsidered and settled on Prime Minister.
Harry was less equivocal and immediately responded he would like to be a footballer. For Chelsea.
Of course the delight of early childhood is that your ambitions are as boundless as your imagination, it’s only as we get older that we acquire self-doubt. Our achievements and abilities begin to be judged by a different measure beyond our own expectations of ourselves. Rather than being encouraged in the areas in which we do excel, our inner critic is reinforced when the grades on the paper tell us we have failed.
Earlier this year, I accompanied Edge’s Director of Policy and Research, Olly, on a study tour in Scotland visiting various projects, schools and organisations that are helping young people build employability skills and find their career path. The saddest story I heard was of a young man who, when asked why he hadn’t turned up for his exam said, ‘I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me I’m thick.’
At Edge we believe every young person should have the opportunity to develop their passion and ability to fulfil their potential. Our Career Footsteps programme aims to open young minds like Charlotte and Harry’s – and much older ones – to the breadth of future possibilities. With our partners, Inspiring the Future, we bring schools and volunteer professionals together so they can share their experience and insight with students.
This past year, 331 volunteers have connected with 17,567 young people in 136 schools and colleges across the UK talking about how technical and professional education has shaped their career. Over 95% of teachers told us that their students were better informed about Further Education, apprenticeships and employment and training and more aware of their career options.
Our volunteers have ranged from clinical psychologists, Chief Executives, Finance Directors, engineers, Parliamentary assistants, a stonemason, a host of people working for HMRC and elsewhere in the civil service and, one of my personal favourites, a Formula 1 mechanic.
For young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds, these could be jobs that they have never heard of, let alone aspire to. Even the most disengaged youngsters are able to focus more clearly on school work when they see its relevance to the world of the work and how it might help them realise their ambitions.
By the time Charlotte and Harry are looking for their first jobs, we may only watch football in virtual reality and the Prime Minister might be replaced by a robot (no sniggering at the back!), but skills like creativity, team working and resilience can never be automated or replicated electronically. Edge’s campaign for a broader and more balanced school curriculum which includes creative and technical subjects continues. We believe that education should equip all youngsters with the skills they need for rewarding and fulfilling careers, not brand them failures because they don’t fit the measure. Please support our call for #ANewBacc to ensure those creative and technical options are there for Charlotte and Harry. After all, you don’t need a degree to be Queen, but you might need an apprenticeship to develop the skills!