Where do children find most of their role models? The answer is probably at home or on television. This gives them a fairly limited view of what careers are available to them. At school they are surrounded by teachers – some of whom may well have had previous careers but many have not. Children need to have the opportunity to meet and talk to adults from the world of work in order that they may discover the wealth of opportunities open to them. My personal preference was to invite people into school who broke the stereotypical mould. It was so enlightening for me to see the children’s reactions in some cases.
I was lucky that we had an amazing Education Business Partnership that offered a package of events aimed at different age groups. It wasn’t cheap but was certainly money well spent. The presentations they did were all fun but with a serious message and certainly opened the eyes of the students. Meeting a male nurse and a female engineer helped to widen their horizons and see that the world was indeed their oyster.
Creating good business links takes time and a lot of communication. As teachers, we must remember that business people have jobs to do and for some of them, getting away from that job and giving up time free of charge is almost impossible. We must also remember that there needs to be a gain for both parties. Many businesses worry that students do not have the right skills for their workplace. Creating a link where they can meet and talk to students helps them understand what happens in school and gives them an opportunity to shape what happens. Before any visit is made to school, the teacher and business person must sit down and plan timings, aims and outcomes. Both parties must feel confident that they will gain positively from this venture and have a clear understanding of classroom rules and procedures. I have seen some disastrous business links due to inadequate planning. As teachers, we have to remember that the visitor may not know at what level to speak to children of a particular age group or to vary the activities to prevent boredom. An open and honest relationship is a necessity.
One of my local Academies started inviting local business people in for breakfast. This meant that the business person didn’t have to eat into their working day and students could still attend all lessons as normal. The meetings were fantastic to witness.
Schools have other great resources, untapped in many cases – Governors and parents. Try to create a database of people who will happily come and talk to a class for thirty minutes about their career path – even if it has not been particularly successful. Children will gain as much hearing about a career failure as listening to someone who has really made it successfully. Again though, make sure they know what to expect before facing the children. The only time this backfired for me was when I invited in a successful business man who proceeded to tell the whole class that they really didn’t need to work hard in school because he hadn’t and still did fine. Not really the message I wanted to get across!
Encouraging good links with local business will pay back in spades when you are asked to organise work experience – and that’s my next blog topic.