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Today marks the first day of National Careers Week (7th-11th March). Founded by RSA Fellow Nick Newman, NCW is an annual awareness-raising week, celebrating careers guidance and encouraging education providers to bring together students, local employers and advisers through careers events and activities.

Schools have had responsibility for providing high quality impartial careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) to their students since 2011 but, with no extra funding accompanying this responsibility, many have struggled to deliver this effectively. And so, considering the newly-formed Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy recently launched an inquiry into the “patchy and complex” world of careers education, a dedicated careers week at a key time in the academic calendar seems a great opportunity for schools to focus on careers guidance activity.

One reason why an initiative like National Careers Week is so important is that high quality careers education is crucial for social mobility. Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to end up NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) as their more affluent peers and only a quarter of boys from working-class backgrounds end up in professional or managerial jobs, which is why the Sutton Trust’s Mobility Manifesto cites provision of good quality personalised careers education as one of ten policies that urgently need to underpin the social mobility agenda.

At RSA Academies, we prepare students across the Family of Academies for the world beyond school by enabling students at all stages of their schooling to develop a wide range of skills and knowledge, so they can thrive in their continuing education, the world of work and in society. As part of our distinctive approach, we are developing a strong alumni network of former RSA academies pupils, who will not only provide role models for pupils at their old schools but also give one another a network of peer support, connected to the RSA Fellowship. We also have a partnership with the University of Warwick to help raise aspirations and inspire interest in and understanding of Higher Education – a highlight of this is the annual Warwick residential for year 8 students, with one pupil commenting that “this weekend has made me realise what great opportunities are available at university, and has inspired me to make new and different choices.”

Another important strand of our work is helping students to develop the range of skills and competences that will enable them to be effective leaders. This is done through our student leadership programme and annual Takeover Day held at the RSA, where students have the chance to pitch a school or community-based project and turn their ideas into reality.

Many key aspects of our programmes involve RSA Fellows. Our Broadening Horizons mentoring scheme recruits Fellows to mentor students to help broaden their experiences and act as a ‘critical friend’. We have also had Fellows visit our schools to talk about their careers, launching formally next year as our ‘Careers in the Classroom’ programme, as well as Fellows helping our students connect the world of work through projects such as Wyrd.

We are hoping that we can continue to be supported by the RSA Fellowship, and beyond, in order to facilitate students from across our academies to access high quality careers education through mentoring, careers fairs and talks, workplace visits and work experience opportunities. If you are local to the West Midlands area and would like to get involved, whether an RSA Fellow or not, please email Roisin.Ellison@rsa.org.uk to find out more. 

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