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Careers – the possibilities are endless

Published: Jan 23, 2020 5 min read

Karen Brunyee

Professional Development Leader

Bootham School

What do you do when a pupil states that when they grow up they want to be a mermaid?                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Illustration of a mermaid

Do you:

  1. Say: “Brilliant, you’ll need to be a really good swimmer and know all about the animals that live under the sea”.
  2. Tell them that mermaids aren’t real and they can’t possibly be one.
  3. Discuss the types of jobs they can do that are marine based.

I don’t think anyone would suggest option b) and actually, research shows that by the age of seven, most pupils understand that a mermaid is not a real career opportunity. But research also shows that pupils are making choices about their future careers by the age of four – in so much as they have decided that some jobs are not for them, but how do they know what is out there for them?

“Children can only aspire to be something that they know exists,” Dr Ger Graus, KidZania.

This is where career-related learning in primary schools can have a real influence and show pupils what jobs are out there. In the recent careers strategy from the DfE, it recommended that primary schools start to adopt early careers learning and not leave it all to secondary schools. There are many approaches to careers-related learning in primary schools, but giving pupils exposure to many different jobs, places of work and skills will only help to support them in understanding that there are so many things they can aspire to. This can also help support towards the new Ofsted framework of raising our pupils’ cultural capital.

The week commencing 2 March 2020 is National Careers Week so why not think about planning a week of careers-driven activities for the whole school to engage with. The STEM Ambassadors programme is the perfect place to engage with volunteer professionals. They can talk to your pupils about their jobs, share resources and complete activities that showcase their world of work.

Careers activity 1 – Factory facts

I don’t know about you but I am fairly obsessed with the TV programme Inside the Factory. I find it fascinating learning how everyday things are designed and manufactured. The links to the entire STEM curriculum are immense. Who knew how many materials went into a mattress or what temperature Bakewell tart toppings need to be before being applied to the baked good? Can you visit a factory as a class, or watch elements of the programme and then design your own production line with efficient machines for producing a pupil-led designed product?

Careers activity 2 – Meet the parents

In my own class, we sent out a request for parents to come and showcase their jobs with us. We were lucky to have so many varied careers – from a paramedic, cook, dentist, rally car mechanic, journalist, to an astrophysicist. We worked with the parents on the skills needed to complete their everyday jobs and created a fun role-play activity where pupils pretended to work in this career later in the classroom. Further research on these jobs led to the discovery of other jobs we could do in these areas. For example, we researched the lives of the first female computer specialists at NASA.

Careers activity 3 – Polar power

Our Polar Explorer programme resources include links to the many jobs of people working in the polar regions. There are interviews with polar researchers, engineers, chefs and many more. The pupils can complete activities that reflect these careers. Have you tried to Skype a scientist?

Careers activity 4 – Big world problems

Pupils are becoming more and more passionate about climate and global issues. Can they find out about the careers involved in developing more sustainable resources? Perhaps visit a recycling facility or zero waste shop?

Centre for Industry Education Collaboration (CIEC) have developed a number of fantastic resources that support careers-based learning through science enquiry. Pupils work as problem-solvers within a real-life context in areas as varied as growing better grass and developing tablets that are easier for our pets to swallow.

Maybe after all this your pupils may still want to be footballers or social media stars but they’ll also have a broader understanding of what there might be out there for them. Who knows, hopefully we’ll have a few more that say, “I’d like to be a volcanologist” or “I quite fancy designing more environmentally friendly cars”. Perhaps even your budding mermaid thinks a job surveying shark populations might be fun.

Useful links

STEM Learning magazine

This article has been taken from STEM Learning Primary magazine. See our magazine section for more.