February 2021


Careers strategy delivered in full thanks to brilliant collective effort

Everyone's lives have been affected by the pandemic and, in these strange times and the midst of the another lockdown, a generation of students still faces decisions which will shape their lives. With most students kept at home, Careers Leaders in schools and colleges have had to be creative and harness support where they can.

This has led to some real success stories. Andrea O'Brien, Careers Advisor at Harris Church of England Academy, in Rugby, explains how brilliant support from the business community has featured in a heartwarming collective effort which ensured that students have all the information they need to choose the right way forward.


With the growing emphasis on careers education in schools and colleges, more than ever it is an important part of the curriculum.

With that in minds, it has never been as important for educational establishments and employers to work together to ensure that we continue to deliver a high level careers service to our students during these unprecedented times.

With the ongoing pandemic, some of the Gatsby Benchmarks (the eight established benchmarks of Good Career Guidance) may seem almost impossible to achieve...but there is always a way!

As the Careers Advisor at Harris Church of England Academy in Rugby, I can honestly say that when we went into another national lockdown in January, my heart sank. I initially thought, how on earth could our students fully benefit from good careers education after missing out on so much last academic year?!

However as adults, it is our role to support and motivate our students. Therefore, we had to remain positive, be resilient and patient and adapt to the ever-changing and uncertain situation by being proactive. This time round, we were certainly more prepared to deal with lockdown and make a positive impact.

We had no choice but to go back to virtual learning, but with wonderful support from a range of sources listed below, including an invaluable Future Careers grant from Warwickshire County Council, we have engaged fully with students and parents.

Here are a few examples of what we have done at Harris:

*  Virtual Mock Interviews – we had a fantastic response from employers and 29 volunteers supported us over a two-day period to interview 119 year 11 students via a variety of virtual platforms. The volunteers were from numerous companies and educational establishments such as Barclays, GE, DWP, Siemens, University of Warwick and Severn Trent Water.

*  Virtual Presentations – some of these were through Speakers for Schools where they have many professional speakers talking about their career journey to inspire and motivate young people. We also put a shout out to our network base to see if anyone could do pre-recorded videos for our year 11 students to advise them on next steps and post 16 options. Year 11 were lucky enough to have numerous virtual assemblies. This was with the support of local sixth forms, colleges and businesses.

*  One-to-One Careers Meetings – each Year 10 student must have a careers meeting by the end of the academic year and these have continued via Google Meet with students whilst they are in the comfort of their own home. This has also been the case for some year 11 students who also need support with the transition from school to further education.

And there’s more! More activities are on the agenda for National Careers Week. We are already planning virtual fairs, competitions, live Q&A sessions with local educational establishments, motivational quote of the day and we are getting ready for the possibility of virtual work experience placements in the summer term.

All of this helps us to not only work towards achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks, but also to give our students the careers advice, support and guidance they need to help them make well informed decisions for their future study and careers.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the continuous support of our wonderful network base including;

* Local and national employers

* Local sixth forms, The Warwickshire College Group, Coventry University and the University of Warwick.

* Our Alumni of ex students and parents

* The Coventry & Warwickshire Careers Hub who are working closely with us in all areas.

* The Warwickshire Skills Hub for the grant which has helped towards technology and staff resources.

* Harris staff – who have ensured that careers education is still communicated within the curriculum and have continued to support their students

* Parents by encouraging their children to participate whilst at home

* And of course, the students themselves for staying motivated and pushing themselves to participate in events, even when some are after school!

These are challenging times, but our experience from the last year is proof that with supportive networks, hard work and determination, the careers provisions can continue to thrive. Personally, I can’t wait to see people face to face again and attend those busy careers fairs, but who knows, perhaps some of the virtual aspects will remain in the future. Only time will tell!


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