Breaking the Mould: Changing The Approach to Youth Career Development

There is a wide range of careers available to young people in today’s dynamic work environments. Although there is a wealth of information available online and through careers resources, it is easy to be overwhelmed with where to find relevant information. Youngsters are keen to succeed but are not aware of all the opportunities available to them. A survey carried out in 2016 by the Behavioural Insights Team (a UK government body) found that young people were poorly informed about the range of careers available to them in the current market and aspired to careers of their parent’s generation.

Part of the problem lies in the guidance from parents and teachers towards pathways which are ‘safe’, well-known careers. In this age of innovation and enterprise, young people are drawn to work that is engaging, financially rewarding and provides a good work-life balance. As a career coach and educational consultant preparing our youth for higher education and the workplace, I find that many interesting careers requiring varied skills are overlooked due to a preference for traditional academic and vocational fields such as law, sciences or finance. Creativity and entrepreneurial thinking are not developed or recognised within the school system, which focuses heavily on a theoretical curriculum and passing exams that can be uninspiring. Students in schools lack opportunities to differentiate, develop areas of teamwork, emotional intelligence, communication, critical thinking and leadership required for future careers.

At university, guidance on employability skills are not compulsory or consistent – the focus being more on academics and securing a job. The system focuses very strongly on the academic/technical ability for standardised assessment and selection; with little emphasis on how we learn and apply that knowledge. Creative or innovative thinkers may be left behind if they do not demonstrate academic prowess. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences proposes that there are eight or more types of intelligence which can help us understand the balance of abilities within an individual. Linguistic, mathematical, interpersonal, kinaesthetic, spatial-visual are some examples of these. Awareness of the balance of intelligences could help improve learning styles and performance in students and adults by better addressing each individual’s skill set at school or work. Educators and employers need to work together to find ways to develop all the facets of our future workforce through providing more creative long-term opportunities to experience and engage in projects that highlight and showcase a range of non-technical skills.

Organised work experience and career development training can help young people gain an understanding of skills required for employability. Placement opportunities, however, are competitive and not always easily accessible. As mentors and advisors, our aim should be to help young people find inspiring opportunities to develop rounded personalities and workplace skills before entering a career; enabling employers to further develop a more enthusiastic and ready workforce.

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Nayanee Silva

Nayanee Silva is the Founder of Smarter Lives Coaching ( which provides Career Coaching, Business and Educational Consultancy services. Nayanee has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, a Diploma in Life Coaching and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. She has previous experience in Corporate Finance in the Management Consultancy and Human Resources Consulting Sectors. Nayanee has co-owned and run a business and technology consultancy for 16 years. She also co-founded an Educational and Corporate Psychometric Assessment Consultancy before the launch of Smarter Lives. Her recent work has covered educational consulting, academic coaching, psychometric assessment and career coaching. She believes in developing creative and innovative approaches to education and career development to help her clients achieve success.

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