Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Set Up a Successful End-of-Year Careers Day

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Set Up a Successful End-of-Year Careers Day

Article excerpt

In an environment of high-stakes exams, it's easy to focus on the present, but helping students to thrive when they leave the safety-net of education is just as important

The academic year is much like a zoetrope: endlessly spinning, showing the same repeated events time and again. No sooner have you welcomed in the new year that you find it's the exam period, and you start waving goodbye to that year's leavers.

It's easy to get sucked into that routine without raising your head to properly look at what happens when students leave. You are focusing on getting the students the best start in life possible and - though you do as much as you can to help them when they leave - the focus is usually on the present, not the future.

In the media and art department at our sixth-form college, we decided that this wasn't good enough. We set up an annual careers day, aimed at preparing our students properly for their next steps. The approach is applicable for all subjects. Here is what we did.

Decide your focus

There is no point spending money, time and effort on setting a careers day up if you do not have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

We settled on three aims in our first year and set out a plan to achieve them.

1. For students to be better prepared to choose, apply and be interviewed for university

We invited a range of different institutions to talk about their provision and facilities. These included specialist art colleges - both local and more distant providers - and a selection of universities. For the latter, we wanted a good mix of institutions, with examples of both rural and inner city campuses. The list was not random: we speak to students regularly about where they are considering applying to ensure that we get the right people along where at all possible.

2. For students to have a better understanding of university life, as well as the benefits of studying at HE level

A selection of our own alumni, who were either still studying at HE level or had recently graduated, offered a Q&A session as well as 1-to-1 advice. This allowed a more tailored approach where students could ask very specific questions pertinent to them. The value to students in seeing people who have come from their institutions and the level of personalised advice those alumni can give has been hugely important for many individuals.

3. For students to see a creative career as viable and to be excited by the prospect

We recruited a range of visitors over the years, from freelance illustrators, designers and writers to employees of creative and media companies such as Sky TV, who came and spoke about their careers and working life.

Set a date...and stick to it

One aspect of our careers day that makes organising it simpler is that it happens on the same Friday each year. That means that when any member of staff finds themselves talking to someone who they think would be relevant and interesting to our students, we can book them in then and there. This year, we had around half our sessions already agreed before we really started planning. Confirmation emails were sent out, and once we knew who had definitely signed up we were able to see where the gaps were in relation to our three objectives above.

The same is happening for this year, and a number of people who were involved the previous year are going to come along again.

Be clear on what you want from speakers, and communicate it

This is probably the hardest thing. Most people who come in, particularly those representing organisations, will have their own agendas. …

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