Thankfully, times have changed for the better since the days when careers advice at college was made up of a five-minute chat with the geography teacher before being sent off on your way, none the wiser.
The government announced its careers strategy in 2017 to “make Britain fairer, improve social mobility and offer opportunity to everyone”. The move was to counteract concerns that many students did not receive a satisfactory careers experience.
To become a careers advisor, you will either get there through a higher education route or a work-based route. In terms of the higher education route, you can take the QCG/Postgraduate diploma in Careers Guidance at university, which is either a one-year full-time or a two-year part-time course. To do this course you will have either a degree or a few years’ relevant work experience.
A level 4 Diploma in Career Information and Advice and a level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development are two other essential qualifications for FE career advisors.
The work-based route will involve working your way up to the role of careers advisor from an assistant level. If you decide to go this route, there are level 2 and 3 awards that you can take while working.
An example of the work-based route mixed with the higher education route is Sue Rathmell, careers adviser at South Thames FE College. She began her career in marketing before getting a job at the Department for Work and Pensions. She did a degree in social policy and a postgrad diploma in career guidance before joining the college in 2014.
The career advisor role involves liaising with students to help them make decisions that suit their life and circumstances. Sue explained: “Students often arrive in college without having put much thought into their options and we have to pick up on that.”
For 16 to 19-year olds, career decision-making is of critical importance. Careers leaders are now compulsory at colleges as of 2018. Larger colleges may have a careers leadership team.
A survey of 750 careers leaders in the UK found that 27% sit on the senior leadership team.
The Department for Education calls on colleges to install a careers leader “who has the energy and commitment, and backing from the senior leadership team, to deliver the careers programme across all eight Benchmarks”.
There are eight Gatsby benchmarks designed to see colleges offer effective career guidance. You will need to familiarise yourself with these benchmarks prior to your interview for a careers adviser role. They are: