On Wednesday 8th March, the Uni Connect team braved the elements (snow!) to attend the National Careers Guidance Show, 2023. Our intrepid explorers made their way to the ILEC Conference Centre in West London, ready to speak to hundreds of careers leaders and education professionals from across the country. Attendees had the opportunity to speak to education organisations and employers from across the sector, and attend seminars on topics including vocational pathways, supporting mental health and wellbeing within careers advice and guidance and SEND inclusive careers education.
Our stand included an interactive post-it board, where we asked careers leaders to answer the following questions; what are their hopes for careers and Higher Education advice and guidance; what do they see as the biggest barriers to Higher Education; what do careers leaders need to thrive in their role; and how can Uni Connect can support schools?
We found that:
Finance continues to be a huge barrier for students, particularly with the current cost-of-living crisis. Both students and parents are fearful of associated debt, and low-income families can be put off by social mobility opportunities. There is a need to diversify the careers advice sector and also for more resource in careers in the form of increased staffing, as careers advisors often feel stretched thinly, with not enough 1-2-1 time with students. The traditional university route can feel both overwhelming and unsuitable for some students; and a greater need for IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance) on alternative pathways is needed. More outreach is needed both for inclusive SEND information, advice and guidance and in Alternative Provision settings. Because most schools have little to no support for students completing the apprenticeship application process, three areas were identified to improve uptake of apprenticeships: staff CPD, outreach (including employer visits) and placements.
In summary, this is how we can support:
We will continue to support by sharing our cost-of-living guide and conduct research into the impact of the crisis on students’ HE decisions, creating more timely free resources based on our intel with our schools network. Staff CPD on apprenticeships, particularly focusing on the application process, warrants more investigation as a pathway to help schools with. Strengthening the links between local employers and schools can also ensure students receive sufficient apprenticeship outreach and placement opportunities. The conversations we have had with careers advisers emphasised the need to continue nurturing our programme running in a PRU setting, and share learnings and ideas where possible.
On the final day of National Careers Week, we shared a roundup of resources, which we provide below to showcase the range of support we have on-hand for CEIAG professionals. We hope to add more specific guides to this list, starting with a guide on alternative routes (inspired by the T-Levels stand at the NCGS!). Watch this space…
A final note to the many AccessHE members who also attended the show, including Middlesex University London, University of Law, Pearson College and Ravensbourne University London. It was great to see you all there providing excellent support for attendees – we celebrate you!