Careers education and guidance (CEG) can play a key role, not only in supporting young people in their career progression directly while in education and training, but also in engaging parents (including carers and guardians) through various means so that they can better support the career development of their children. The aim of this research is to understand precisely in what ways parents and carers might perform a supportive role to young people as part of CEG.
Although parents undoubtedly have the potential to influence their children’s career development, both positively and negatively, robust evidence of what, when and how parental behaviours constructively support their children’s learning about career progression remains inconclusive. This is because formal, large-scale, preferably longitudinal evaluations, the results of which are available through publication, have not been conducted. However, this study has brought together a range of experiential evidence on engagement of parents in education, with a focus on CEG.
Approach and aim of the study
The aim of this study was to understand how parents and carers can be better supported by schools and colleges to feel more informed and confident about the support and advice they give to their children about their career choices. The methodology, comprising a literature review and interviews, was designed to collect and examine a range of evidence from different sources to provide an enhanced understanding of the potential role of parents (including carers and guardians) in providing support as part of CEG and to determine how they could be better supported.
Evidence on parental engagement in education and careers
There is much evidence that parental engagement in careers is important to facilitate and/or expand opportunities for young people, with a need for them to be ‘career aspirants’ that is supporters of education and career pathways and providers of information. Key findings that have emerged include:
The role of parents in careers development
The influence of parents is exerted through certain kinds of behaviours, as well as through family conditions that foster the development of values, attitudes and self- concepts in children.
Defining parental involvement and engagement
This can be defined as firstly, parent activities at home and within educational institutions (schools and colleges for those aged 11 to 18 years) that provide psychological, financial, learning and well-being support and structure; and secondly, institution based activities, which include communication and/or collaborations with teachers and careers practitioners, plus attendance and participation in school and college activities. Both types of involvement emerge from the evidence as having positive impacts on young people beyond careers.
Measuring involvement and engagement of parents in careers
There have been various attempts to measure parental support and engagement. Existing evidence indicates that levels of this engagement exist on a continuum from those parents who are fully disengaged, to parents engaged only at key points, through to those who are fully and actively engaged. Parental engagement is important for supporting the development of: information seeking and research behaviours; self- efficacy, career decision-making and confidence; planning, goal setting and creating a sense of direction; and career adaptability, flexibility and employability skills.
Impact of parent careers support and advice
Young people value parental support and often ask them to provide a ‘rational’ input into their career decision-making processes. Parents’ own experiences of education influence and shape their recommendations and expectations for their children.
Approaches to engaging parents in careers
Parental engagement in CEG works well when parents can work in partnership with educational institutions to support learning and careers related activities. However, parents have different expectations and needs at different points in time, which influences the nature and level of engagement. Clear communication is essential, backed up with targeted careers resources and workshops for parents and their children.
Careers education and guidance in schools and colleges
Over the last 15 years, the expectations of CEG by governments in England have moved along a continuum from matching young people to jobs and/or attempting to tackle wider issues of social deprivation and societal (dis)engagement.
The initiatives uncovered in the review undertaken for this research suggest that enhancements to parental engagement and involvement in England are often associated with project funding. Evidence shows that embedding parental engagement in school and college programmes and curricula can be effective. Approaches in Scotland and Wales offer insights into how provision can be successfully embedded across the curriculum and how parents are recognised, valued and supported in CEG provision.
Through practitioner and expert stakeholder interviews a wide range of CEG related activities and interventions that engage parents were identified as taking place in schools and colleges across the UK, including: parents evenings; careers fairs; breakfast and coffee clubs; curriculum activities; personal guidance sessions; careers open days; collaborative careers events with other schools and colleges; employer/sectoral events; expert presentations on topics such as the future labour market, employability skills, apprenticeships, etc.; and career guidance sessions for parents.
Examples of interventions engaging parents in the UK
With CEC support, Adviza is currently delivering a set of three interactive workshops, ‘Help your child achieve their goals’, aimed at parents and their Year 10 children to support them with future options. Workshops are offered in the early evening offer parents and young people a space to work together to create a shared understanding of career choices and pathways.
The Brilliant Club is a charity connecting schools and universities. Its aim is to increase the number of young people from under-represented backgrounds (aged 10-18 years) from non-selective schools to progress to higher education. It offers activities that develop the career aspirations of academically able young learners. Parents are supported to participate in the activities organised by the Club so they can have shared experiences and dialogue with their children.
The Maths with Parents intervention illustrates how parents of primary school students (aged 3-11 years) can be encouraged to engage with schools and get involved in their child’s learning. Maths with Parents is a web-based programme that supports parental involvement in their child’s learning through supported activities at home. Key learning from this initiative could potentially be transferred to parents of older students and to a careers context.
A number of online interventions, apps and websites have been developed to engage parents offering ways in which to communicate, disseminate and enable access to information. It is unclear how these programmes and subscription services are funded, quality assured, updated and promoted to parents. Parents may also require support to make full use of online content.
One particular example of an online intervention is the INSPiRED teenager programme. This is a paid for online video course and e-book for parents and their children to ‘learn at home together’, but can also be delivered face-to-face. It aims to help parents become more confident, better informed and able to use coaching techniques with their children.
Policies and strategies to engage parents from other countries
Neither national nor international evaluation evidence on parental engagement policies that have had a positive impact on children’s career development is strong.
However, the need to support parents who are recognised as having a positive impact on children’s career development is shaping practice and guidance, both in the UK and internationally.
National and international evidence reveals how parental engagement in CEG is moving away from passive forms of involvement and information giving, to creating space for active engagement, collaboration and communication between parents and educational institutions.
National policies and strategies that identify how the education system could engage parents were found in, for example, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Such policies typically facilitate CEG rather than making it mandatory.
Examples of interventions with parents from other countries
Ways in which policies are interpreted and implemented vary amongst and within countries. Some features of practice from international examples include:
The Parents as Career Transition Support (PACTS) program in Australia provides parents with up-to-date information related to their children’s transitions through group workshops. A trained facilitator discusses with parents how they can support their children’s career aspirations and preferences with confidence.
The Future to Discover project in Canada comprised a range of interventions that supported the education and labour market outcomes of under-represented students. The Explore your Horizons programme of workshops explored educational options in post-secondary education. It offered enhanced career planning and information on the costs and benefits of post-secondary education. The aim was to increase the knowledge of young people and their parents about future options, but also provide guidance to parents on how to support their children in this process.
Family Conference is the method used in Czechia to support a young person in a difficult situation or in a crisis. It is also used to support disadvantaged groups, like migrants. A key principle is the full integration of parents, who take responsibility to mobilise resources to help the young person in need.
In France, voluntary organisations are working with schools to help tackle social inequalities by supporting young people with their educational journey. Higher education students are providing tutoring support on a voluntary basis to young people and their parents in their homes to raise aspirations. The volunteers spend two hours a week with the family over the year creating a positive bond.
In Germany, Vodafone has published a handbook of good practice, with practical examples of how to get parents involved in schools. Although the focus is not specifically careers education, the practical suggestions are equally transferable to CEG. Four ‘pillars’ are identified: building relations, respectful communications, involvement in different activities, and ways of cooperating with parents.
In Hong Kong, as part of The CLAP for Youth project, an award for parents has been introduced to support parents to realise their own career dream. The underpinning rational being that if parents can be supported to succeed in achieving their own career dream, they are more likely to motivate and support their children in achieving theirs.
In the Netherlands, Parents Turn was a government-funded project in secondary education. Four career interventions were delivered by career teachers with the support of tutors, teachers and heads of department at their schools. Parents and their children attended the sessions together, which aimed to support parents in facilitating their children’s career building.
Individual Learning Plans (ILP) was highlighted in the USA as a common mechanism for integrating parents into the CEG programme, involving annual meetings with the parent and student, to record progress and difficulties and negotiate a career action plan for the next year.
Learning from others in the design and delivery of careers-related activities for parents
From the evidence, key learning that has emerged in relation to the design, development and delivery of careers-related activities and programmes to support parental knowledge and engagement in careers advice includes: strategic leadership and management support; parental involvement in the design of CEG activities; targeted, personalised communication to parents; and mixed delivery programmes involving a range of activities, events, etc.
Key features of current parental engagement strategies in schools and colleges include:
Planned activities embedded across the school and college as part of their service;
Collaboration and engagement between the educational institution and parents;
CPD to support careers practitioners and education staff in their engagement with parents;
Clear communication plans to engage parents including the use of digital tools; and
Ongoing monitoring and development for sustained improvement.
The overall aim of a parental engagement strategy is to ensure that parents are supported, ultimately reinforcing and complementing the advice and guidance delivered by schools and colleges.
Importantly, evidence highlights challenges to parental engagement in the UK with some highlighting how: the timing of events often conflicts with parents’ working hours; there are issues around when and how careers support is communicated; and that there is a general lack of time, space and resources available within educational institutions. Parental engagement activities can be resource intensive, so sustainability emerges as an important issue.
There is a significant body of evidence outlining the importance of parents in young people’s career decision making. Overall, evidence emphasises the need for parents to be supported by schools and colleges to develop their knowledge and understanding of choices and future careers so that they, in turn, can provide better career support and advice for their children.
There is not, however, a significant body of robust literature evidencing the approaches that have most impact regarding engagement of parents within CEG programmes. However, from our examination of current practice, schools and colleges could consider supporting parents and young people by:
Promoting and communicating the CEG activities across the curriculum by involving parents wherever possible, for example, asking them to contribute to classroom activities, getting involved in homework activities and through their integration in careers days;
Redesigning existing activities to involve parents, so, for example, inviting parents to their child’s personal guidance session (where appropriate), careers fairs/ open days and ensuring they are held at times when parents are more likely to attend;
Creating parent-friendly environments with activities to draw parents into the school or college, such as breakfast and coffee clubs, and career guidance sessions for parents;
Designing new activities that engage parents, employers and the local community, such as ‘meet the employer events’, ‘guess my job’ and informational events on topics requested by parents that involve local experts;
Using technology to engage and support parents in their child’s learning and CEG, since this offers ways in which to communicate, disseminate and enable access to information.
Careers practitioners also have a role in supporting both parents and their children in their career conversations to ensure they are supportive, informative and useful. Where parental support is absent, it could be argued that practitioners have a duty of care to the young person as well providing support to parents, where appropriate.
To take these research findings forward pilots are needed in schools and colleges to test a range of careers interventions and activities. Evaluating these pilots would provide a better evidence base in which to take careers practice forward.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ The role of parents and carers in providing careers guidance and how they can be better supported: evidence report
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