It was a pleasure to visit Collyers to talk about “employability”. As generations of Horsham Parliamentary candidates have discovered a question time session at the College produces varied, intelligent, probing questions! Last week was no exception.
Current 6th Formers have major decisions to make and make early. For prior generations there were a fraction of the number of University places now available and these were grant-funded. For many winning a place at University presented an “obvious” course of action. For others there were huge employers – including locally - who would sweep up school leavers wanting a job.
That pattern has changed. University is more widely available and more widely accessed than ever before. It remains a great option, likely to result in higher net lifetime salaries. It is however only one option. Quite rightly students now are far more focused on what it will cost, what the job outcomes may be and the quality of teaching they will receive.
There are alternatives: immediate direct employment, apprenticeships in anything from marketing through all the trades on which we rely, even some accountants have now restarted direct entry at 18 for those who are already committed to that as a career.
Above all employment patterns have changed. A colleague visited a University last week where half the graduates he spoke to were intending to set up their own business. Modern technologies are “disruptive” enabling new ideas to be marketed fast and effectively. The pace of change presents huge opportunities but also different requirements.
Current school leavers have more equal opportunities than ever before. They will have longer working lives than previous generations expected. They are very likely to have multiple employers and many will choose to be self employed. Training and education will be something you in dip in and out of through life rather than a phase ending at 21. Current leavers are also far more aware of work/life balance and willing to take career breaks to explore other ambitions.
In only the last 25 years the world of work have changed dramatically. It is reassuring to see how 6th formers are carefully considering all the many options with which they are now confronted.
Picture caption: Meeting the School Council as part of my visit to St Andrews School in Nuthurst last Friday