Children are (thankfully) a long way from joining the workforce. While career guidance makes sense in the later years of school education it would not make any sense at a primary school level. Trying to pigeon hole children into a career path would be like asking them to pick a best friend for the rest of their lives. I know from chatting with my kids, they change their best friend every week. However, that does not mean that career education does not have a place in primary school. An increasing number of studies now show the benefits of primary career education. This is something that you should talk to your school about for your child and if they don’t have it, it may be a topic you want to discuss with your child at home.
People who disagree with this idea argue that talking to a child about their career aspirations is putting too much pressure on them at a young age and at a time when they could never be expected to know what they want to do when they are older. Yet this misunderstands the aim of career education. Those of us who have had some formal career education likely had it in the later years of school and it was focused on choosing a profession, this is not the only type.
Instead, career education at a primary level could be focused on making children aware of different professions and linking the importance of school and education to these roles. If you ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up they may say a spaceship or a dinosaur, clearly, these children are too young for beneficial career education. However, research from the Institute of Education suggests that children as young as seven have moved away from these impossible ideas and now think more realistically about career possibilities. While there is no way you could expect them to know what they want, it makes sense to introduce them to the world of possibilities that lie ahead.
Studies have shown that when careers are introduced as part of an early school program it can increase engagement in the classroom as children start to understand the importance of paying attention. While they may not be able to understand the qualifications required for a job they haven’t even thought of yet, they know enough to understand the importance of school and working with teachers.
While this may still sound too early to some people, consider the alternative. In many systems, careers are never mentioned until students are forced to make a decision about what subjects to study. At the age of 14/15 students are usually faced with this first decision and they are usually not thinking about careers when they make it. Most students pick the subjects they enjoy. When it comes to later years and they are starting to think about careers many realize they dropped a subject at age 14 that would have been very useful to keep on.
Although no one is encouraging discussing career choices to primary school children, by introducing the idea and allowing them to explore different careers that exist it will slowly start to get them thinking in a positive way. In addition, some children do know what they want to be at an early age. How many adults have you spoken to in successful positions who say that from the age of seven they were only interested in science or art or some other subject? It is possible that some children will have a passion from an early age and being able to visualize that as a career is only a good thing.