Vanessa Freeman

Vanessa has been a careers adviser and guidance trainer for 10 years. In the past she has been responsible for the professional development of careers staff.

Social mobility needs more than paid internships

It's not just about providing the right footholds...

The UK Government recently released Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility.

The report quotes some depressing statistics about social mobility in the UK.

  • Only one in five young people from the poorest families achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with three quarters from the richest families.
  • 25% of children from poor backgrounds fail to meet the expected attainment level at the end of primary school, compared to 3% from affluent backgrounds.
  • Almost one in five children receive free school meals, yet this group accounts for fewer than one in a hundred Oxbridge students.
  • Only a quarter of boys from working-class backgrounds get middle-class (professional or managerial) jobs.
  • Just one in nine of those with parents from low income backgrounds reach the top income quartile, whereas almost half of those with parents in the top income quartile stay there.
  • Only 7% of the population attend independent schools, but the privately educated account for more than half of the top level of most professions, including 70% of high court judges, 54% of top journalists and 54% of chief executive officers of FTSE 100 companies.
  • The influence of parental income on the income of children in Britain is among the strongest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Parental income has over one and a half times the impact on male incomes in Britain compared with Canada, Germany and Sweden.

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How can careers advice be positive in a recession?

lady luck

Is it all a game of chance?

In a world of employment gloom where graduate jobs are on the decline it seems to me the time is ripe to inject a bit of planned happenstance theory into our careers sessions.

Many successful people, when asked about their career, will talk about an element of luck.  But being in the right pace at the right time usually involves taking action to get there.  The person fortunate enough to be offered a job during work experience gets the opportunity not only because they had the initiative to get the experience in the first place but also because they made an impact once through the door.

Planned happenstance is a useful tool for advising in a difficult economic climate, when the R-word hold sway.  First, because it encourages open-mindedness in career planning, rather than searching for a rigid career goal.  Secondly, it promotes positive action regardless of whether this leads to an obvious outcome.

But how does this impact on our work?

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