Supporting and engaging parents and carers with careers advice to young people in their care - Blog by Sally-Anne Barnes and Jenny Bimrose
A recent report from the Resolution Foundation suggests that youth unemployment could rise by 640,000 this year and the Association of Colleges is predicting around 100,000 leavers will find it difficult to gain work and work-based learning. So with these record unemployment levels amongst young people predicted, an important issue that is likely to emerge strongly for the careers profession from the COVID-19 pandemic is exactly how educational institutions can maximise the impact of their work with parents and carers to support the young people in their care with their career education and progression. This, of course, also has the potential to help young people continue to learn and develop whilst away from their schools for any reason, including any future periods of social isolation that might be necessary as a result of recurrent waves of infection.
A stronger relationship was already being built as schools changed and adapted the ways in which they communicated, supported and worked with parents and carers. However, the news stories in abundance that have recounted how young people in their final year of education will be negatively impacted by a lack of apprenticeships and employment opportunities make it even more important than ever to ensure that young people receive the best possible careers support whilst still in school.
Given that parents and carers will have an ever increasingly crucial role to play in careers education, it is important to understand exactly what works in terms of their support and engagement. A recent survey of parents and young people reported that just three in five parents felt confident in advising their child about ‘how they can achieve their career/job goals’ or ‘what career/job options would be best for them’. So, there remains an unanswered question as to what works in engaging and involving parents and carers to support their understanding of careers options and, importantly, their confidence in providing careers advice.
Impact of parental and carer involvement in careers
An international review, undertaken by IER, has just been completed. It examined evidence on what works in engaging and involving parents and carers in careers activities so that they feel more confident in the careers advice they give.
The review revealed how parents and carers undoubtedly have the potential to influence the career development of young people, both positively and negatively. Examples of practice identified in the review tells us that shared parental-child careers education and guidance experiences have positive outcomes for young people. These shared conversations and experiences support career development and confidence in career decisions. Involving and engaging parents in careers can positively help young people with their future planning, confidence, goal setting and career decision-making.
Whilst involving parents in careers, education and guidance is neither new nor innovative, we found that parental involvement often remains somewhat marginal, both in the UK and internationally. Parental involvement is often more aspirational than systematised or mandated. Interestingly, the review reveals how parental engagement in careers education and guidance in the UK is moving away from passive forms of involvement and information giving, to creating spaces for active engagement, collaboration and communication between parents and educational institutions.
What could schools and colleges do to engage parents?
Despite the broad recognition of the importance of parental involvement, there is a lack of evidence on what, exactly, are the best ways for schools and colleges to engage parents. Drawing upon the experiences from practice in the UK and internationally, it is possible to draw out ideas on what could be done to engage parents and carers. These are detailed in the practice report and include suggestions to:
- Create parent-friendly environments with activities to draw parents into the school or college, such as breakfast and coffee clubs, and career guidance sessions for parents.
- Promote and communicate careers activities across the curriculum, such as asking parents to contribute to classroom activities, getting them involved in homework activities and through careers days. This will help ensure careers is part of an ongoing conversation.
- Build on current parental engagement in the school or college and so look at where parents and carers are involved and introduce careers conservations and activities.
- Involve parents and carers in the development of the careers strategy and careers education and guidance activities to encourage support and interest.
- Redesign existing activities to involve parents and that they are tailored to reflecting different expectations, needs and aspirations, as well as recognising that there will be different levels of engagement at different times.
- Design new activities that engage parents, employers and the local community, such as ‘meet the employer events’, ‘guess my job’ and informational events on topics requested by parents that involve local experts. Try to ensure that the parent-school and parent-college relationships are not reduced to a static series of concrete activities.
- Develop ‘peer communities’ of careers practitioners and teachers within and across schools and colleges to support their skill and knowledge development in engaging parents and carers, ensuring new and interesting practices are disseminated, with their uptake encouraged and supported.
There is clearly a need for parents and carers to be effectively supported by schools to develop their knowledge and understanding of choices and future careers so that they, in turn, can provide better careers support and advice for their children. The review has highlighted a need for further evidence to be collected on what works best, to inform a national strategy for engaging parents, with emphasis on allowing individual schools and colleges to tailor their approaches to reflect the needs of their communities. Moving forward, trying out new activities that engage parents and carers, plus learning from each other and building on what works will be essential.