3 ways to integrate careers into your lessons
Careers education shouldn’t have to stop at the careers office. Teachers can play a vital role in helping young people navigate their futures—here's three effective ways to make careers education a part of daily learning.
‘My careers adviser told me to be a tree surgeon…’ or something similar, is the type of response you often get when you ask adults of their experience of careers advice when they were at school.
Thankfully things have changed a lot in the last ten years, with more integration of careers and employability skills into school life. Yet, there’s still a long way to go. Careers are still often perceived to be the job of one person – the Careers Leader. Do you know who holds this role in your school? Do you know about their careers strategy and the role you play in it?
There are various ways that teaching staff can support careers education at large – from simply finding out who your careers leader is, and how you can help them, to motivating your whole department to pilot an initiative to better integrate careers and employability skills into the curriculum.
For many schools who have completed our Careers Leader programme, their whole-school careers strategy follows a simple objective: ‘every teacher is a teacher of careers’. These schools recognise the benefit of this approach and are putting teacher involvement at the centre of their future plans.
Below are tips on three ways you can integrate careers into your lessons right now:
1. Using links to careers
Making connections between your subject and future careers is the obvious way to integrate careers into your lessons, but some subjects lend themselves to this more than others. Science teachers find it much easier to highlight the relevance of science for different careers than, for example, language or humanities teachers.
Much emphasis has been put on STEM in recent years, and there are some great resources for STEM teachers in both primary and secondary setting to link their subject to future careers, for example from STEM Learning.
However, it is possible to make links in all subjects with some thought and creativity. For example, a school that was struggling with attracting boys to Art began linking the subject to the gaming industry (through the importance of animation and visuals). They went further and showed statistics relating to jobs in the industry, surprising pupils with how many jobs there were in the UK.
In some schools, subject teachers can visit relevant industries (‘outset’ days) to build their knowledge of roles which they can link back to specific topics, and generally improve their understanding of the current world of work and workplace practices to share with pupils.
A popular approach to linking curriculum to careers is using poster and displays in classrooms or departments. There are a range of posters available free online for different subjects listing careers that the subject could lead onto, such as planitplus. You can also find these to demonstrate how different skills are relevant to the world of work, which is covered in more detail later further down.
A great ‘nudge’ for all teachers to routinely consider how they may bring careers into lessons is to include a careers prompt on planning documents for schemes of work, using departmental meetings to regularly brainstorm and share different practices, or browse social media to search for teachers (in your subject) sharing resources that have worked well for them and their pupils.
2. Using skills
The importance of skills when it comes to what employers are really looking for can’t be underestimated. Being able to draw on a bank of examples of when you might have used, for example, problem-solving skills, or been resilient, will be the best way to prepare pupils for job applications and interviews in the future. Recognising when we’ve used these skills is something we can all be doing, all of the time. Employers want evidence.
For those subjects e.g. English, History and languages, where it’s harder to identify obvious career pathways, highlighting skills developed in studying those subjects can be a great way of making the subjects relevant, and making pupils more engaged.
There are many ways in which you can embed skills development into lessons, and several organisations have created free resources to support teachers to do this:
- Barclays LifeSkills have free lesson plans where you can specify age (for example 11-14 or 14-16) and category (for example ‘Building key skills to do well at work’) to suit specific needs. There are plenty of choices from a 25 – 45 minute lesson plan on Leadership, to a 60 – 90 minute lesson plan for listening and speaking (communication). Resources often include lesson plans, slides and worksheets.
- The Skills Builder Partnership is a very well-established organisation with a growing bank of educator resources to support pupils to build their 8 ‘essential skills’. Its Universal Framework breaks down skills into steps, with teaching resources to support pupils of all ages and abilities. Skills-development can be built into lessons over time, and progress measured so that teachers can assess impact, and pupils’ confidence builds by recognising how they have improved over time.
Take a look and if your school isn’t already using them, see who you can speak to about trialling some in your department.
3. Using employers
Giving pupils the opportunity to meet people in jobs is beneficial in so many ways. But there’s so much more you can ask of employers than just giving talks or attending a Careers Fair. For example, in one school a drama teacher’s subject was at-risk of being dropped completely because of low numbers. She approached a range of local organisations where drama was a key element of the careers within them and developed activities and encounters with these employers across her curriculum. The following year, her subject was oversubscribed.
There is a fantastic organisation, Forum Talent Potential, encouraging teachers to reach out to employers to support them with bringing curriculum learning to life – and in particular topics they find challenging to teach. They have created a six-step process to help teachers think creatively in how they can, for example, work with a local museum, care home or charity to deliver learning on particular subjects or skills in a real-life scenario. Case studies demonstrate what a success these initiatives can be, for both pupils and the supporting organisation. For example:
- Year 6 pupils working with paramedics and the ‘what3words’ mobile phone app to support learning in ‘using maps, atlases, globes and digital mapping…’ National Curriculum objective.
- A GCSE Maths teacher supported by a local architects’ firm to teach the topic of the ‘Transformation of Graphs’.
- A Spanish teacher working with a local football club welcoming a Spanish team to stay – pupils created a ‘packing list’ for them (and got to meet the team!).
Some careers leaders have a wide network of organisations which support them in delivering their careers programme which you could access, but you can reach out to your own network too. People really enjoy coming into schools to work with pupils so don’t be afraid to ask!
And don’t forget your own career path and experiences. You can also be a great source of insights for your pupils by talking openly about your background, the decisions you made, and the skills you’ve developed along the way.
Susie Kendall has been a Curriculum Design Manager for the Careers Leader Programme for the last 3 and a half years, and prior to that delivered the programme to 10 schools on the South Coast. She has delivered careers workshops to pupils in secondary schools and has almost completed her Level 6 Diploma in Careers Guidance and Development to become a qualified careers adviser.
Is your school looking to make careers a whole-school priority? Our Careers Leader programme is fully-funded for eligible schools and will work with your careers leader to create a three year, tailored strategy. Find out more.