19 October 2015: Choosing a career is one of life's most important and difficult decisions - and can be even more complicated when you are unaware of all the options available to you. Today, young people face pressures from an early age to pick subjects, apply for qualifications and plot a career path. However, with 54% of parents admitting they feel ill equipped to offer careers advice1, how can you help your child to make the right choice? The organisers of The Skills Show - the nation's largest careers event - have put together some helpful tips to support parents whose teenagers are nearing decision time.

Understand the options available

There are many routes to a successful career - so which one is right for you? Apprenticeships and vocational training courses, which are growing in popularity, offer a clear path to a long-term career and enable young people to gain valuable experience of working as they learn. Although traditionally a route to practical, hands-on trades such as bricklaying, plumbing and joinery, courses are now available in sectors as varied as accountancy, digital media and business administration, and higher apprenticeships offer an exciting new way to enter professional careers while achieving a degree-level qualification. They are widening access to professions and helping to build the high level technical skills needed for the jobs of the future.

Try to stay aware of the available opportunities around you that would potentially interest your child. Keep your eye on the media and discuss different opportunities with them. Whether they're 11 or 18, having a broad knowledge of what is available will help you help them make the right choice when the time comes.

Listen and be supportive

Ultimately, it's not you who will be doing the apprenticeship, the training course or the degree, so it's important to listen carefully to your child and try to get a feeling for what they enjoy and ultimately, what they want to do. We all know what it's like at that age, the future is exciting, but daunting too. So try to be there as a soundboard when they want to talk about the future. Give your advice, but understand that their wishes are key - your role is to support and encourage them in their decisions.

Today, new skills are in demand - digital expertise is becoming increasingly sought after. Parents could be tempted to sway their children based on their own past experiences, but university might not always be the right option, and an apprenticeship might not be what they want to do. It's about finding a balance - giving your constructive opinion without being overbearing or dogmatic. Becoming a professional footballer may not be a realistic option, but those skills could be used in leisure management, teaching, working with young people or even event management - there are lots of choices available.

Explore their passions

Ultimately, awareness of what is available is the key to unlocking doors. It is important to spot your child's passions and talents from a young age and explore how they can translate into a long-term career. While they might not take an interest in all the career paths available, giving them a chance to get a feel for the day-to-day activities in a range of jobs will ultimately help them work out what they want to do in the future, so encourage them to talk to employers in your local area, and perhaps secure some work experience, so they have a better idea of what the jobs involve.

Carole Stott, Chair of Find a Future, which brings together WorldSkills UK Skills Competitions and The Skills Show, commented:

"Today's employment market is complex and constantly changing. Some industries are oversubscribed, while others, such as manufacturing, technology and education, are crying out for young people to provide the skills that we, as a nation, so urgently need. With big changes taking place in the world of work, education and training, it's no surprise that most parents are feeling a bit confused when helping their children decide.

"Fifty years ago the route to work was relatively straightforward, but as the world of work and the world of education and training change it can become increasingly difficult to work out what to do.

"It's a difficult time to be a young person. On one hand, there are so many options available in terms of careers, but on the other, this world of possibility makes it really hard for young people to make the right choices. Events like The Skills Show showcase those choices in a way that's both fun and informative - helping to make an informed decision about their futures, so it's a real opportunity to find a career."

The Skills Show is the nation's largest skills and careers event for young people, taking place at the NEC, Birmingham from 19 to 21 November. Free to attend, the event is expected to attract around 75,000 visitors, and is packed with hands-on careers experiences to show young people the employment opportunities across a range of industries. With the Edge Foundation and Premier Colleges as Lead Sponsors, and leading employers including BAE Systems, the BBC, Crossrail, the NHS and Virgin Media in attendance, visitors have the chance to try new skills, discuss opportunities with employers and training providers and make the right career choice. To book your free place, please visit www.theskillsshow.com


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