Careers Fairs: Opportunities for Young Adults with LDD

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I had a glimpse recently of the vast array of opportunity that exists for young people, who, without SEN or disability, may begin to deliberate seriously their future options at Years 10 and onwards in many of our secondary schools, from whatever sector they may hail.  It is remarkable truly, the choice that exists.

The Careers Fair I attended was neatly divided into four main sector with a room in the host school allocated to each group of exhibitors: universities; gap year providers; taster course providers and job sectors. For my daughter, the evening was a resounding success and a very agreeable and sociable experience for myself also, as is the way of these school events that bring together parents who may normally meet fleetingly and in passing.

It occured to me, in all my many years of working in education and over 20 years of working in special educational needs, that I have never been invited to attend, or been aware of the existence of, an equivalent event for young adults with SEN/LDD.

I would be delighted to hear as a response to this blog post, any information to the contrary.

I am conscious here, that terminology may change, to reflect diverse needs, but aside that, there remains still a great breadth of provision for young people with LDD both within and beyond the school setting that deserves some particular attention. Much of this diversity, being so locally or regionally based, remains outside of the norm and so, off the page, for many parents and young people.

Several things struck me that I believe contribute to the success of the particular careers fair I attended and may be generalized in a wider context as success factors:

From the perspective of the school:

  • Any school hosting and planning for such an event, must place a particular emphasis and importance on the guidance that young people need in making decisions about their future, whatever that future may be;
  • Schools that host Careers Fairs, however modest or ambitious in scale, accordingly must give a status to those members of the workforce whose role it is to plan and co-ordinate such events, whether afforded the title of Head of Careers or under any other title;
  • Such schools will necessarily have a degree of self-sufficiency as they gather information about the breadth of opportunity that exists for the young people in their care, and it is assumed, be effective in making this information accessible and generally available throughout the year to their students;
  • This focus on opportunities will lead also to a greater capacity of the school to chart outcomes and end destinations for all students through the cumulative effects of an increased status of the role of the Careers Adviser, a heightened focus on careers within the school, and the enhanced links with providers whether in education or employment;
  • The incidental ‘staff-room chatter’ and outcomes from the Careers Fair, allows for a more personal understanding of individual student needs, that may not otherwise arise in the classroom. The chance for teachers to follow up queries made during the event, or to tune into particular student interests, is enhanced significantly by the act of hosting a Careers Fair;
  • The choices made by the Head of Careers in selecting those local or regional employers to exhibit, can reflect local  industry and business needs and so ensure there is a strong correlation between the needs of educators and employers;

From the perspective of the student:

  • Careers Fairs, in whatever form they may take, give an opportunity outside of the formality of the school setting, to explore options that may not otherwise occur to young people, or may fall outside of their immediate realm of experience, and in so doing, they open up new avenues, new pathways into the future;
  • The relative informality of finding out information about employment or education choices, and having discussions with potential employers, is a tentative step into the future. These moments can be an incredibly powerful motivating force for young people who, in such moments, may begin to see a future that exists beyond the relentless round of assessment and exams that dominate secondary education;
  • The relaxed atmosphere of such events, which may be held in after-school hours typically, means that students who may be reserved or cautious in a formal one to one interview situation, can engage more with the process of discovering information presented through on-going slide-shows, videos, display boards, leaflets and prospectuses, without fearing that the questions they wish to ask may be worthless;
  • In bringing together educationalists, employers and young people, opportunities abound for that incidental meetings of minds, the conversations that occur when young people fall upon a topic or subject that matters dearly to them and have a ready and willing conversationalist. Such moments can be transformative;
  • The conversations that young people have, as a response to the shared experience of the Careers Fair, are a means of focusing on the future, of recognizing aspirations and realizing ambitions. This sharing of experiences between friendship groups, strengthens resolve, bolsters motivation and increases the likelihood that intentions, however tentative, transitory they may be, become a reality
  • Young people, in gathering up a host of information on a multitude of possible futures, can begin to chart their own destiny, can begin to feel a master or mistress of their own universe. These are powerful times in a young person’s life;

The needs of all our young people in schools deserve our fullest attention, as do their future plans and ambitions, however elevated or modest they may be.

I shall explore more later, in my next blog, what providers may make up this alternative Careers Fair, and how this may help bring together the increasingly fragmented world of provision for young people with LDD. In doing so, I hope I may inspire someone, some individual or school, to consider how best they can provide opportunities for the young people in their care to feel that they too, may be masters of their own universe.

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