We need to talk about pathways…

posted in: Mindset | 0

As the world comes to terms with the effects and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that young people are going to need more and different levels of support. Different from one another, different from before and different because the future is likely to be different.

The World Bank baseline forecast in June 2020 suggested the likelihood of a ‘5.2 percent contraction in global GDP’ – six months on, the pandemic continues to affect many nations and even with a vaccine being rolled out, we are going to see a very different world in the future.

In Britain we will also see the real impacts of the UK’s departure from the EU over the coming months and years, its effects on the economy, manufacturing and opportunities for travel and work in 27 other partner nations.

In short, the past year has highlighted starkly the changes in our economy and the world we have long-promised our young people – work hard and you can have a good job and a nice car and own a lovely home – it’s not really the case anymore is it? With young people living at home until their 30s, graduates with debts unable to get a job worthy of their qualification, rising inequality and the economy in peril we need to have a discussion about what the future REALLY looks like for young people.

The traditional narrative around the traditional educational / career path needs to be updated to include the skills young people will need more of – vocational and trade skills, entrepreneurship and the ability to understand and flex their skills according to the future needs of the economy AND what they want to do to balance their life and work.

I believe that the narrative needs to be about including the other vocational and non-traditional paths in the discussion rather than saying – THIS ONE ISN’T RIGHT – so it’s about broadening the knowledge, information and reputation of other routes available to all young people. The multiple changes in funding FE, UTCs, Studio Schools and apprenticeships needs to be seen as the background and we need to see real signs of what happens when FE is invested in for a longer-term rather than a series of short-term, tokenistic ‘fixes’.

The wider debate about futures within schools, within education, with parents and also realistically with business and industry is essential to make alternative pathways more of a reality and to support young people in developing their skills and confidence for the future. I speak about it in my book and so it’s something I passionately believe in. 

My book, The Ladder, will be published in February 2021 and outlines what schools can do (simply and within a solid framework) to support young people in their future plans and visions.

More information and the link for pre-orders of the book are available here: