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The importance of careers fairs in securing student opportunities

21 January 2019

Activate Learning will be at Careers Fest 2019 tomorrow

Activate Learning will be joining many other local education and apprenticeship providers at the MINI Plant Oxford for Careers Fest 2019 tomorrow.

Renowned as one of the largest careers fairs in the city, the 10th annual event will welcome schools to the MINI Museum to present options for further study, apprenticeships and potential careers.

We caught up with Alex Warner, Director of Faculty: Technology at Activate Learning to talk about the benefits of these kinds of careers events:

What are the benefits of local careers fairs?

Careers fairs have numerous benefits. The real beauty of an event, for me, is about the local ecosystem taking responsibility for the supply and demand of local talent. Events will create opportunity through the coming together of people and industry and working collaboratively with the goal of developing career pathways. In time, they can become self-fulfilling through sustained education-industry partnerships.

Do you find that the technology sector (and others) benefit from these kinds of events?

You do not need to look far to identify 'skills shortage and demand' areas. National agencies and bodies representing numerous sectors are raising awareness at all levels about opportunities available. Industries are already pledging to support the development of talent and to also widen participation. For example, in the Technology Sector, The Tech Talent Charter aims to increase diversity and address gender imbalances. Careers events are an opportunity to support such agendas and to raise awareness and create opportunity for the entire ecosystem.


Why is education so important for young people and their careers?

Lifelong learning is essential. Accessing careers information is not only essential when entering industry and taking those first steps, but also for individuals progressing through their career. Accessing careers education, information, advice and guidance is essential to not only inspire, but also inform and direct individuals. Careers events are just one way of accessing careers information but are probably one of the most important as it offers guidance to early-careers advice that will shape individuals' future direction- they are the building blocks to a career journey that may last 50+ years.

What would be your advice to those considering a career in technology (or other sectors), whether that be further study or an apprenticeship?

Talwar and Hancock (2010), presented a description of 110 future jobs in their report 'The shape of jobs to come: Possible new careers emerging from advances in science and technology (2010-2030)'. Table 1 presents 20 of the new careers that they feel may be possible. Whilst we can dismiss this as 'something of science fiction', the chances are that these are possible career pathways. My best advice to those in technology, and all sectors, would be to be agile, resilient and say 'yes' to learning and developmental opportunity. You never know, you may become a leading 'weather modification police officer'!








How do our students benefit businesses?

Students today are our future thinkers, experimenters and navigators, they will enter on to a career pathway like no other that has previously existed. Students and early-career employees have a lot offer industry in navigating the challenges that are posed by political, social, technological and/ or cultural developments. Industry can get access to a pool of potential staff with a wide range of skills via our Careers Team


How important is it to work with business partners?

Education-industry partnerships are vital for ensuring that curriculum is up-to-date. Often curricular may be out of date at the time of delivery (having spent 3-5 years in-development),so by working with industry, we can ensure that we not only satisfy curricular demands, but also 'speak the language' of the workplace. In turn, industry partners know that their future workforce is abreast of developments and 'real world' application of knowledge - not simply relying on what has been published by a curriculum awarding body. Such support is essential for future workforce development, but also current workforce development. Industry partners can work with educators to support the development of both 'what' is taught and 'how' something is taught in the classroom. Outside of the education environment there are equally valuable opportunities for students and industries through work experience, industry placements and apprenticeship opportunity.

How do our students' skills benefit business?

Industry partners get numerous benefits from working with students. Individuals from industry engaging with direct delivery will be able to develop their skills of presentation, mentoring, coaching etc... not to mention the huge sense of fulfilment from volunteering expertise. Students' knowledge may also support the industries at a strategic level, enabling them to get feedback from different audiences from those who may not be usual target markets. Many industries we have worked with are interested in the views of wider audiences and working with students is a great way to explore such views.


Do you think working with business partners gives students progression opportunities and a career advantage?

Academic research (see, for example the work of Dr Anthony Mann, OECD 'Contemporary Transitions...') shows that those students who experience 'employer encounters'; can be 86% less likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), can earn up to 18% more career earnings and experience increased levels of confidence (to quote just a few benefits). Having observed students work with employers, the best bit for me is about supporting 'career readiness'. Employer encounters are the closest we can get students to what they will be exposed to beyond formal education. Whether that is first entering a workplace, first interview or first presentation, students will be equipped with the experience of having conducted a 'dress rehearsal'. Employer encounters, work experience and industry placements will give students the edge when it really matters.


How do you think these events inspire young people and their future careers?

Students are not always aware of the greatness of opportunity available to them. Exposure to industry, through careers events, enables individuals to access information that they may not have previously been aware of. For example, those interested in engineering career pathways exploring aerospace, chemical, pharmaceutical or telecommunications engineering fields and some of the exciting developments in each of them. All too often we rely on our immediate connections through family, friends or teachers where employer encounters open up a far greater 'reach'. Put simply, careers events open students' eyes to a world of opportunity.


Why do you think our current business partner relationships are so successful?

Industry partners who currently support curriculum have very successful relationships with Activate Learning. Partners play numerous roles in providing industry insight, supporting direct delivery and endorsing curriculum inside the college environment and in the workplace via Work Experience and Industry Placements. Students immediately become aware of industry and specific companies upon connecting. Companies can develop their brand awareness and enhance their reputation through sponsorship of classrooms, equipment or students, helping to develop future leaders of industry. We have had some amazing examples of students having been left inspired by encounters with industry, who have now gone on to start employment with those companies. It is becoming self-fulfilling in that those individuals are now returning to guest lecture and inspire the next generation of industry recruits.