Careers advice in a time of uncertainty

MFL_Access Aspiration
26th June 2020

by Phillip Jolly, Employment Programmes Manager at Mayor’s Fund for London

Young Londoners are facing a time of uncertainty that none of us could have anticipated at the start of this year. Most students are losing out on classroom-based learning and face an unclear return to school in the autumn with social distancing and blended learning being discussed.

Within the Mayor’s Fund, we’re seeing the huge impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on the young Londoners who access our programmes, not least 6th Form students who are making vital choices about their future career options.

What we’re hearing from schools and Careers Leaders during lockdown 

In the short term, students are thinking about what a University experience might be like in a time of social distancing and, in the long term, about the future of job opportunities against a backdrop of fewer apprenticeships while businesses pause recruiting.

It’s now more than ever that young people need clear guidance that they can really trust about what their future employment opportunities are.

The positive news is that there is support out there for young people with guidance on how to weather this storm and to come out the other side with the best possible opportunities to forge fulfilling careers.

Schools are doing the best they can to deliver quality careers guidance, DfE guidance to schools in terms of Gatsby Benchmarks and careers programmes is sound and businesses have the appetite to work with schools and young people.

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At the Mayor’s Fund, we’ve been working closely with Careers Leaders in schools. They’ve been telling us that now more than ever, they are looking to external organisations to help them make vital links with businesses and streamline their careers guidance offer.

We’re also hearing from Careers Leaders that online sessions are a great opportunity for making careers guidance encounters with industry inclusive and accessible for as many students as possible. Where previously an insight into a business might have been limited to a group of 20 students and require them travelling, we’re now seeing webinar style presentations reaching 40 or more students at a time – room sizes and chairs are no longer a limiting factor.

With this in mind, one thing that needs to be in the forefront of programme design is the quality of the encounter – how do we make sure they’re impactful and positive? Participation and the opportunity to interact, rather than passively receiving, is key to how engaging a session is for a young person.

We can’t afford to make careers guidance an exercise in box ticking and counting numbers, and that’s why I was pleased to see the latest DfE guidance to schools on what standards sessions should meet to be reported back at the end of the year on their Compass careers programme evaluation tracking.

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What is out there for schools and young people?

We have taken all of this information on board to help us adapt our Access Aspiration programme during lockdown, which is now running fully online. Our new ‘Access All Areas’ webinar series has seen over 400 students so far hear from experts across a range of industries about how they got into the sector and tips and tricks for success. We have also recently launched ‘Sector Snapshots’ – a series of short videos from experts answering a range of questions that our students want to know.

In this time of uncertainty, we need to be committed to working together with Careers Leaders, London businesses and  6th Form students to make sure they’re as well prepared for the future as they can be. Coronavirus has certainly changed the landscape of the jobs market as well as how students receive careers guidance and how they meet with employers – this generation of young Londoners can’t be the ones to lose out.

If you’d like to get involved in Access Aspiration, please contact Angela Law at