Meeting the needs of young people and industry, the International Baccalaureate’s Career-related Programme allows students to pursue vocational courses and gain the vital skills that employers seek
In a recent article for the Director website, Mark Boleat, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, issued a stark warning about the state of careers education in the UK. He described a generation of students that are ill-prepared for work, failing to fulfil their own ambitions or to meet the needs of employers.
Today, says Boleat, more than 61 per cent of businesses are unable to find talent with the skills they need. At the same time, students are concerned about their own prospects. A recent survey of 2,000 young people for the charity Action for Children found that 53 per cent were nervous about employment and 15 per cent said they did not get the right support, including careers advice and mentoring, at school or college.
This mismatch of skills is damaging not only for the careers of young people but also for industry and future economic growth. It is a problem that must be tackled by both business and educators.
A framework for future work
Most conventional post-16 qualifications do not provide a framework to allow students to develop in all areas. However, a relatively new programme from the International Baccalaureate (IB) aims to do exactly that. Since 1968, the IB has developed international understanding and responsible citizenship in its students. Its latest programme is the first to allow students to specialise in, and focus on, a career-related pathway.
The Career-related Programme (CP), a sister programme of the Diploma Programme, allows students to pursue vocational courses in their preferred pathway and so gain a career focus that employers seek. It develops rigour through academic courses and a more rounded understanding of the working world through components that nurture skills such as communication, problem solving, initiative and responsibility. “The combination means [students] have a much wider perspective on the world,” says Sian Carr, principal of Skinners’ Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells. “They have a greater range of skills and attributes. Their experiences have been wider. They bring that to universities and employers.”
CP students engage with a programme that genuinely interests them while gaining transferable and lifelong skills.
The value of soft skills
It is predicted that by 2020 some half a million workers in Britain won’t have soft skills, such as communication skills and time management, despite the fact they are worth an estimated £88bn to the UK economy.
In order to tackle the challenge of helping students prepare for both the workplace and university, the IB designed a well-rounded core. It consists of three courses – approaches to learning, community and service, and language development – and a reflective project. The approaches to learning course aims to develop responsibility, problem solving, good intellectual habits and an understanding of the complexity of the modern world. Through the community and service course, students apply personal and social skills to real-life situations involving decision-making, problem solving and initiative. Language development exposes all Career-related Programme students to a second language and increases their understanding of the world beyond
Specifically, the programme is tailored to develop skills that can be applied to any working environment and appeal to employers of all sizes. A spokesman for ArcelorMittal, the multinational steelmaker, says: “We would like to have employees who are not only professionally skilled with career-relevant knowledge but also have a global outlook with a thorough knowledge of the traditional academic subjects.”
“In a global economy, global perspectives, lifelong learning and analytical skills are much-needed. CP students access a broad, flexible education, which will give them knowledge, practical training, intellectual engagement and international mindedness. It will also develop their higher-order cognitive skills and the academic behaviours that enhance their employability,” says Dr Siva Kumari, the IB’s director general.
In 2014, the CP was shortlisted for the prestigious WISE award, which recognises innovative international education projects that transform society. There are 23 schools and colleges in the UK either offering or preparing to offer the CP and 87 globally. Crucially, each school is offered the flexibility to allow for local differences.
As the world of work evolves at pace, it is vital that students are prepared for work, not only further education. “So many schools just create students to go to university,” says Kate Greig, headteacher of King Ethelbert School in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, which offers the programme. “We want to create students who can do anything.”
We are looking for industry partners and professional bodies to work with the IB as the Career-related Programme grows and expands its reach. If you are interested, please contact Peter Fidczuk, IB UK development manager or visit ibo.org/en/programmes
How the programme unleashed my ambitions
Libbie Gadd, a year 13 student at King Ethelbert School in Kent, describes the benefits of the CP initiative and reveals how it has inspired her career choice
The CP has given me many opportunities to acquire skills needed for the workplace. The service-learning project was my greatest challenge and I had to come out of my comfort zone in order to develop the necessary abilities. These skills, in teamwork and communication specifically, will benefit me throughout higher education and in my future workplace, but I also gained skills that were unexpected – for example, in advertising.
My understanding of cultural differences has also been improved. Through studying Italian, I can now apply this learning skill to any language at any time. The course also gave me the opportunity to network with people from other countries. I volunteered to represent my school at a quiz for young people from all over the world that was being held locally. The CP combines academic studies with a vocational element, and through this, I have gained skills in medical science. On a visit to Kent Science Park, my class and I synthesised aspirin and conducted a paternity test using DNA samples.
Studying some of the more theoretical elements has now inspired me to pursue a career as a doctor. I have now received offers from Northampton University and Coventry University, thanks to both my grades achieved through the CP and the breadth and level of study of the programme.