Friday, 30 September 2011

They don't have a dream

From what I remember, school careers guidance consisted of a useless interview with a council careers officer, a grumpy woman with massive hair and unfortunate blue eye shadow, who hadn’t even met any of us before. Big hair would suggest the boys go into the army, the girls into hairdressing and those stubborn enough to refuse her first option were encouraged to go into accountancy (I was a stubborn one). Has anything changed?

There has been a lot about university fees in the news these last few years, as the cost of a degree is set to rise to a staggering £27,000. Much opinion about students getting a free ride, and whether or not they should have to pay fees and have access to grants and loans is dominating already pretty depressing news headlines.

But to me, the deeper issue is that kids are often coming out of University having completed a degree they don’t care about, and wasted not only their time and money but the chance to follow their dreams.

I followed school with a wasted 2 years of A-levels (and not a bean of careers guidance offered there) followed by 2 years of working in an office. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted and needed help. After some serious foot stamping I managed to procure a fairly useless appointment with the same big haired blue eyeshadowed lady I had seen 4 years previously, who told me to go travelling. I went to University after doing evening classes. But even at Uni, I received no careers guidance and my degree went virtually unused. Ten years later, having done nothing with my degree, I am now studying again, this time not the skill of writing but how to actually make a career out of it.

The man says he never had a dream, never had a passion for a career and didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Many of my peers are only now discovering their true vocation and starting to carve out careers that not only bring in the money they need but also the satisfaction of doing something they love.

“They” have got it all wrong. Stop focussing on exam results, qualifications and the three R’s, go back even further than that and start teaching kids how to form ambition and dreams. Teach them to get to know themselves so they can follow a career that they are passionate about and find rewarding. Give them the confidence they need to make these decisions and the bravery to change their minds if something isn’t working.

Maybe this is the job of the parents. But how can we as parents encourage dreams and ambition in our children if we don’t have any ourselves? Like all education, it should be a partnership between parents and the education system to give those who need support the skills they need.

The outlook seems bleak to even the cleverest and brightest of kids. They hear nothing but unemployment, war, recession, cancer, obesity, STD’s, terrorism… it’s a scary world out there. Is it any wonder that many of them look for nothing more than money and fame, which seem, on the surface at least, to give them some protection against the miserable future that faces them? Teach these kids that they have to power to change the world, and they might just do it.

We need to help kids nurture their dreams, and give them the skills to really understand what kind of career would suit them. There’s no point in people coming out of university with all this debt if they are not going to get a job they enjoy, and there is no point in people giving up education simply because they want to earn some money, sentencing themselves to a lifetime in a job they eventually despise.

Higher education services people who like to learn, and there are just as many people who get more out of learning through doing things, but there needs to be more help for those who just don’t know. Who don’t know what they want to learn, let alone how.

Maybe this would redress the balance between those who are going to Uni for the right reasons, and those just there for the crack. And maybe this would create a better society of employed rather than unemployed and fulfilled not disillusioned.

Get rid of the useless degrees in areas that are not going to lead to a solid career, and make those degrees that are available more relevant and useful. But most importantly, make quality careers guidance freely available to all. Maybe then Big Hair would have found a more suitable profession, instead of being paid to wrongly steer the paths of impressionable youngsters.

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