An Education

I’m now three months into my temporary role at The Bank with not even a sniff of a new job; in finance for otherwise, and I’m having a “WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG” moment! 

Perhaps that’s a little dramatic, maybe it’s a “why didn't it go right” moment? I cast my mind back to when I started making choices about my career and the advice that was given out at school to assist me. Would I have chosen differently had I been back at school today? “Do what you love”, I was told. But what if love doesn’t get you where you want to be?

I met up with friend and Head of PSHE Careers Faculty at Le Rocquier School, Nina Stier, to understand more about the direction and guidance kids are offered today when selecting a career and how they go about furnishing them with the tools required to get them where they want to be. I was quite shocked at how the approach to this subject has changed.

At school I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to do. Since primary school I knew I wanted to study art and that my job should require creative input. But it wasn’t until University that I chose to pursue a career in fashion and even later into my degree that I settled on fashion journalism. Looking back, I don't believe I was ready to commit to a degree when I did, being so unsure of what my end goal was and I regret not considering more fully how my career choices would translate back to Jersey. But at 18, like many, I was keen to fly the coop and University was the most feasible route to do this. 

                                             Much more has changed than just the building.

                                             Much more has changed than just the building.

Today’s employment landscape, Nina advises me, is in stark contrast to when we were young. Back then there was every possibility of walking into a job in Jersey, so we were relaxed about choosing a job let alone a career. After school some travelled, some fell into finance roles and others flitted back and forth to see what fit best. 

Now, competition for any role in Jersey is strong and students are conscious from a young age of the need to start building an outstanding resume to be ahead of the curve. There was little investment in careers education in our time, but from an insular Jersey perspective, an argument could be made there was not the need that there is now.

The importance of careers education within our schools is evidenced by the introduction of a new Jersey careers curriculum, set to go live in September this year. This will embody teachings which most schools already adopt which sees careers education starting at primary school. The focus on the subject increases by secondary school with Le Rocquier scheduling one hour a week on the topic into their timetables. With assistance, Nina meets with every one of her year 11 students to answer any questions or concerns that they might have and her door is always open for guidance to students in other years.

“It is about students choosing for themselves, we don’t make choices for them but provide information and guidance so they can make informed choices about their future”. 

Pupils have the opportunity to visit Universities, attend careers fairs, undertake work experience and attend talks given by professionals in the industry. There is quite literally a plethora of information available!

But today’s students are less prepared for working life than 20 years ago. The popularity of social messaging means that many students Nina meets have little idea how to conduct professional telephone conversations and more stringent employment laws has resulted in the majority of school leavers not having experienced employment before gaining a permanent role, save for a small stint of work experience through Project Trident. By 16 I had had a couple of Saturday jobs and had learnt how to cash a till, structure a letter and use a fax! 

Financially, less can now afford to go away and get a degree. The rich / poor divide is ever more present in our schools, though Nina ascertains that a degree on your cv does not open the doors it used to. “Lots of people have a degree and still cant get the jobs they want. I think employers are much more open to the idea of someone having worked their way up in an industry than they were”. 

These kids are more savvy about gaining employment. They are conscious of avoiding unemployment, they understand about the recession and the effects of world events. They also know that if they are financially restricted a degree education may not be an option and their career goals may need to be adjusted to accommodate what Jersey can offer.

So this is what I’m up against!

Careers Jersey picks up where teachers leave off offering guidance to adults and graduates alike to ensure that support is there for the taking throughout people's career development. Guidance isn’t just for students and it is important to check in with yourself regularly and consider where you are headed. What were your goals? Are you truly happy on your chosen path?

Maybe any mistakes I’ve made wasn’t the result of poor career guidance but in thinking that guidance ends once you leave school? In meeting with Nina to understand what she offers kids I’ve been given some very useful free advice and our chat gives me fresh hope and renewed determination. It’s easy to understand why Nina is so highly regarded by her pupils and peers alike as this is exactly what every teacher should offer - hope that achieving anything is possible with hard work and determination!