Fairer access - Time to bite the bullet

Congratulations to Alan Milburn on opening up a laudable cross-sectoral discussion about what our childrens’ futures could be. His newly published report (Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions) provides some important statistics about current and historical routes into the professions and offers a large number of conclusions and recommendations.

Some of these recommendations are common sense and have the merit of practicality; some are repeats of old intentions; some will mean building yet more bureaucracy to implement some sensible suggestions; others are statements of the blindingly obvious. However, the recommendations should not be cast in stone at this early stage – there is much discussion yet to be had. How can we ensure that any initiatives are as inclusive as possible for all those who might be involved in solving the issues highlighted yet again? At no point in either the report or the executive summary does the word competence appear. This is an interesting and strange shortcoming which does not bode well for the various levels of implementation which are being suggested.

EDUCATION - ADMIT IT’S A MESS

What does come over loud and clear is that our current education system is a major stumbling block for many, along with the calibre of careers advice available around the country.

ASSOCIATIONS MUST BE INVOLVED

There is, I agree, an immediate need for professional associations to examine how they currently work with academic providers at all levels, the business community and other stakeholders to ensure that employer expectations are also met (see 5 keys to professionalism). The associations should be involved in educating and inspiring young people and encouraging their enthusiasm. Detailed schools engagement programmes could start the ball rolling and can be underpinned by many practical (and often current) activities: utilising branch structures, shadowing, mentoring, work experience with corporate members, information packs, teacher packs, accessible websites, appropriate language and formats, access to academic resources, presence at careers fairs, volunteers offering their time into local schools - the list is a fairly long one.

HOW CAN WE ALL HELP?

So the issue is not just about access but it is also about:

Vision: Enthusiasm: Encouragement: Opportunity

There is already a great deal of exciting, visionary and praiseworthy work going on around the country but with our young people more than ever exposed to peer pressure, media input and the cult of the celebrity, will our hard pressed teachers be given the resources to be inspiring, to engender enthusiasm, to encourage talent when they see it and provide opportunities for individual students to excel?

Early exposure to the notions of excellence and professionalism could make a difference but we are all going to have to stand up and be counted if we are to make an impact in time to make a swift difference. This is going to offer all professionals some significant opportunities to be involved and that can only be good for everyone’s CPD!