Many of you will have noticed our Secretary of State for Education’s latest careers-related comments made at an education technology show in East London last week. According to Nicky Morgan, one idea for using technology in the future is to “link qualifications to tax data, in order to demonstrate the true worth of certain subjects.” For those of you who haven’t seen or heard the context of this statement, it can be read in more detail in the TES.
Careers advisers across the UK are, I’m sure, flinching at these comments as yet more evidence of how out of touch the government is with everything ‘careers’. Certainly for me Morgan’s idea raises three very important issues:
1) The assumption that the only value in a career is seen through its salary
Some industries pay well, others don’t. We know that. But to suggest that a career should be of more value than another purely because of its earning potential is extremely insulting to hard working professionals in less well paid lines of work. Ask any nurse, teacher, carer etc and I’m sure they would agree.
2) The worrying impact of promoting this assumption
As careers professionals, when it comes to qualifications and careers we want our clients to make well-rounded decisions, based upon their abilities, what they enjoy, and what suits their personal motivations. Young people are surrounded these days with stories of ‘get rich quick’ celebrities and over-paid footballers that it is hard enough as it is to keep their salary expectations grounded. What we don’t need is the government also contributing to the argument that money is everything.
3) The oversimplification of the qualification/earning association
We know that there is so much more to it than “I studied ‘ x’ therefore I can earn ‘y’”. In most cases qualifications alone don’t earn you a career – what about soft skills, work experience, networks, lucky breaks? We also know that qualifications are not restrictive in the careers they lead to and that people studying very different subjects can often go on to do the same job. So making sweeping statements about the amount of money you are likely to earn if you studying a certain subject is just unhelpful, if not misleading.
When it comes to the world of qualifications and careers, two people’s journeys will never be identical. As convenient as it would be for the government to be able to prove otherwise, the industry that we work within will always be dependent on a range of unpredictable variables. This is exactly the reason we need skilled and trained careers advisers, who understand the complexities of these situations, and who can help clients identify their own career worth, however that may be measured.
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