Crossing Canals

Just like our students, the counselors, teachers, professors and career professionals, like to keep learning each and every day, to better themselves and their career. We work with the motto “See one, do one, teach one” (which we stole from Dr. Green from the TV show E.R.) in which we try to practice what we preach. And since we entice our students to see for themselves if the grass indeed is greener next door, we took a trip to see if career guidance is better on the other side of the Canal.

With a team of colleagues from all the schools within the Career Schools Initiative, we took a field trip to see how schools in the United Kingdom apply career guidance and how their system caters to the need of their students. We had teachers ranging from our elementary school OBS Het Lobje to career professionals at Universitas Novitas and every school in between. That meant looking into schools of all age range and education levels to see how the UK makes sure students get all the opportunities to explore their career options.

In the UK they don’t work with the ‘loopbaancompetenties’ but with the Gatsby Benchmarks[1]. Eight benchmarks, each connected to each other, form a guideline for schools to base their career guidance programs on. Following those benchmarks ensures schools to cover all the bases. The Gatsby benchmarks are founded by Professor Sir John Holman and got its name from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. We will cover the benchmarks in a later blog, and compare them to their Dutch equivalent.

What stood out most for us, was the enrichment in the career program from parents, the library and the highly trained career professionals. Where we in the Netherlands feel that parents ‘hand over’ their children to a teacher a little too easy, in the UK, parents stay involved during the entire school career all the way to undergrad. They assemble in career week, help STEM teachers connect their subjects to the world of work and are involved in speed dates, visits at work and internships. Students get to see a lot of the job market, see their parents in another role and learn at a very young age that work isn’t the sole purpose in life. That there is more to get your validations, recognition, and self-esteem from your degree, job or study.

Another big difference in the UK is that students all do the same curriculum until age 16. The National Curriculum consists of four Key stages, from which a student completes the first two in elementary school and the other two at secondary education. After the exam students take at age 16, their level gets decided. So they have a lot longer to develop, discover their talents and learn how to learn. We knew that the Dutch system isn’t ideal for children that need a little more time. To see how students thrive when getting to pick a school at 16 was just wonderful.

Their career development in schools is carefully guided by a professional. Not a teacher, not a mentor but a Bachelor in Career Guidance as a bare minimum. Professionals over there are urged to register at the Career Development Institute to set a standard in schools and businesses and get evaluated annually. The government sends out a strong signal with these rules. Career Guidance isn’t something a teacher should do in a few spare hours. It is a profession that deserves professionals carrying out the Gatsby Benchmarks, develop school specified career programs and be available for one on one student coaching.

In other blogs in this series, we will talk more about the program, Gatsby, helping students in an ever developing job market and the involvement of schools in the career program.

[1] Andrews, D., Hooley, T. (2018). The Career Leaders Handbook. Trotman.

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