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Navigating the journey from school to work: finding the way in a changing world

Flexible working, digitalisation and short term contracts – as the world of work changes, how can schools and employers make sure young people are equipped to navigate the full range of options open to them? Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) takes a look at some of the challenges and opportunities.

“In a world where job opportunities and patterns of working are changing fast, the need for increased access to different forms of career learning and careers guidance is critical.” – Youth Employment UK.

As the independent social enterprise Youth Employment UK said in its annual Youth Voice census report, which gauges how young people of all backgrounds feel about education, training, experience, work and prospects in the UK today, the world of work is changing.

Young people who leave education have a much broader range of options that we may have done when we entered the workplace. The skills and attributes needed in today’s workplace have changed and are as equally important as qualifications, as roles evolve to reflect the opportunities due to AI and digitalisation. And young people have a host of new ways of communicating with potential employers, and of gaining experience of work – especially in light of COVID-19, as we see more employers making use of virtual tours and online content matched to curriculum.

Apprenticeships, self-employment, traineeships, or further study at college or university are just some of the options open to students who are moving on from school. Working patterns are changing as well, with a rise in flexible working, short term roles and portfolio careers, and it’s vital that we help young people to understand and navigate these changes and to be able to view them as positive.

All of this means that schools and employers face new challenges when it comes to helping young people understand the range of options open to them, and giving them the confidence to articulate their goals and hopes for the future.

So how can we work together as a region to give our future workforce the best possible start in their careers?

Here in the North East, the skills team at the North East LEP works in partnership with employers and training providers, and with more than 200 schools, from Northumberland to County Durham.

We partner with business leaders who form our network of Enterprise Advisers – people who volunteer their time and knowledge to work with leadership teams in local schools to bring work and education closer together. And we run regular Careers Leaders meetings where we share the latest information on the labour market and trends in the way we work in our region.

We know that many schools in our region are already doing fantastic work when it comes to careers guidance, but we’re also very aware of the pressure schools are under right now as they deliver online learning at the same time as welcoming vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers into school.

That’s why the support we get from employers is vital and we are very grateful for it.

As the pandemic put limits on in-person work experience, we saw a rise in virtual tours and video footage, which can be a great way of bringing the workplace into the classroom and giving pupils a real life insight into different roles within your business. And of course there are benefits to your business as well, as you build better links with your future workforce and raise awareness of exciting opportunities in your sector.

From large corporations to SMEs and micro-businesses, employers of all sizes and in all sectors can play a role in helping young people navigate their options.

If you want to get involved  you can find out more about the North East LEP’s work with schools and employers here