In her first blog Jenny Williams, Chief Executive at ASDAN, examined the importance of forming a work identity. Here, she looks at the role schools can play in supporting young people through this critical stage of their development
In my previous blog, I explored how choosing a career path can have a significant, positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers as they attempt to work out who they are and who they want to be.
So far, so interesting. But what can we do to help the process of growing up go more smoothly for more young people?
I believe this is where the combined power of personal, social and work-related learning comes in. At its best, it helps teenagers discover what they are good at, what they like and don’t like doing, and be able to talk about that. For me, three things are key:
- Transition: We know that individuals who prepare for transitions before they begin tend to have more successful outcomes, such as adjusting to school or college, maintaining mental health, and meeting their goals. ASDAN has a specific programme that helps children develop the skills that help them make a smooth move from primary to secondary school and we use the same progression principles to support transition to post-16 pathways. You can read about some of the steps one school in Whole Education’s network is taking to make transition a success in their recent blog.
- Work experience: Writing about her latest documentary, ‘The Nine to Five: Introducing Five Teenagers to Five Industries’, Stacey Dooley emphasised the importance of work experience brilliantly:
“Trying different jobs is a great way to get to know yourself and understand what makes you tick… The tasks you do in a job and how you feel about them, but also the people you work with and what they have to say about you, can give you the most interesting insight into your own personality.”
- Helping young people learn to talk about what they’re good at: Being able to identify and articulate personal attributes is so important for students. Not only does it help transfer them to different contexts, it is invaluable for applications and interviews.
I don’t want to pretend that this is straightforward. Developing a work identity has, arguably, never been more complex. Young people are growing up in an age of flexible labour markets in which they increasingly expect to change jobs and occupations throughout their working lives.
And (as we heard at the Whole Education conference) they are surrounded by the unprecedented changes in work being brought about by technology and artificial intelligence.
The pace of change at work puts a premium on the ability to problem solve. Every time we create a solution, we are, in effect, generating new knowledge and skills. How that learning is developed, shared quickly and extended again, and how it integrates with or disrupts what we already know and do is the key question for 21st century knowledge economies. We need new pedagogies for this and that’s something we’re currently exploring at ASDAN.
For those who choose a vocational route post-16, our personal and social development courses are especially useful. Our vocational qualifications system is beset by lists of skills, knowledge and behaviours young people are expected to demonstrate. The opportunity to step back from these and to consider in the round who you are and who you are becoming gets us back to the very essence of developing a work identity – the fundamental process of becoming a beauty therapist, electrician, engineer, sports coach … or whomever your students might want to become.
For those who choose A-Levels or Applied Generals post-16, our EPQ is an ideal way to think about how the knowledge and skills developed at school or college can be applied in a range of real-word contexts – including those that might not at first be obvious. It offers breadth to post-16 study and experience, which university admissions officers and employers will be equally interested in, and gives young people an opportunity to reflect systematically on what they’ve learned about themselves from a work placement and how that differs from and complements what they are learning at school / college.
I believe that equipping young people with the skills to continue learning, and so to continue forming and reforming their sense of self, should be a key function of personal, social and work-related learning.
Most importantly of all, it should help us all to be fully human, social beings, who care about and are kind to one another.
For more information on EPQ training opportunities and guidance on delivering this qualification, please contact Mike Randall, ASDAN Head of Curriculum Development, on firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about ASDAN’s partnership with Whole Education, and how we are working together to support young people in our schools, contact Lisa@www.wholeeducation.org